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The Siberian spruce is allied to P. abies, the most reliable difference being the smaller cones (up to about 3 in. long) with the scales entire at the apex, not jagged as in P. abies. Also, the shoots are densely covered with a short, glandular down and the leaves are somewhat shorter, up to about 5⁄8 in. long. It is usually stated that the leaf-arrangement is similar to that of the common spruce, but in cultivated trees (of unknown provenance) the leaves are more appressed to the shoot and the lower ones are not strictly pectinate as in P. abies but directed slightly downwards. Another character noted by A. F. Mitchell is that the leaf below a lateral bud is displaced so as to point out vertically from the shoot.
P. obovata has a very wide range, from N.W. European Russia through Siberia to the Russian Far East. Spruces intermediate between the common and Siberian spruce occur in Finland, Norway, and N.W. Russia, which are usually included in P. obovata as var. fennica (Reg.) Henry. Cultivated trees with sparsely downy shoots may belong here. See also P. abies var. alpestris.
The Siberian spruce is rare in cultivation. A specimen at Dawyck, Peeblesshire, measures 62 × 4 ft (1974), and there are others of about the same size at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, and Blackmoor, Hants. Smaller trees, planted in 1926, grow in the National Pinetum at Bedgebury, Kent.