Yellow spruce - I need help identifying or diagnosing this plant

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by Haakon, Aug 6, 2018.

  1. Haakon

    Haakon New Member

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    I am not a botanist or biologist, so it would be interesting to get a few more opinions on the matter. I can't find a good answer online.

    My question is about a spruce tree, a sikta spruce to be more precise. At least I believe it to be a sikta. The tree is completely yellow, but does not appear to be sick. I found the tree while I was on holiday in my home area in the western part Norway (Gulen municipality, Sogn og Fjordane county). The tree is not an indigenous species to Western Norway, but was imported from the western coast of Canada and USA during the 1800. At this point Sikta grows just about everywhere in Western Norway. I have never seen a specimen like this though. Maybe the tree is dying? Maybe it has a mutation? Maybe the tree is yellow due to damages from drought (the weather has been unusually dry and hot since May) ? I have tried to find out why this tree has these unusual characteristics, but so far I have not been able to find a definitive answer. Is the yellow colour of the tree a common phenomena? What do you guys think the explanation for these characteristics is?

    I have gotten two different answers here in Norway. Nibio, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, suggested that the tree is yellow because of a mutation. How ever, I got a different answer from The Department of Geography at University of Bergen. They said it looked like the tree suffered damages due to drought.
     

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  2. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    This looks very much like the golden spruce growing in Haida Gwai, British Columbia, Canada, that was cut down by a vandal in 1997. That tree was yellow due to a mutation; and, if the tree in Norway remains healthy and yellow into next year, it is also almost certainly a mutated tree. For more information regarding the BC golden spruce, search the Web for "golden spruce" or take a look at this Wikipedia page: Kiidk'yaas - Wikipedia .
     
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  3. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yes, a Sitka Spruce; this is commonly naturalised in NW Europe. Only the new foliage is yellow; last year's needles are green. It would be worth checking again in a year, to see if the new needles also turn green by then.

    As to cause, it could be genetic, or it could be a nutrient imbalance. To find out, you'd need to propagate it by grafting, and see if it retains the yellow when planted in other places. If it does, then the cause will be genetic, and you could also be on to a popular new cultivar.
     
  4. Haakon

    Haakon New Member

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    Yes, I want to try this experiment and get to the bottom of this. Good idea! Personally I think it is a mutation, but this just my gut feeling.
     
  5. Haakon

    Haakon New Member

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    I read about the spruce in Haida Gwai a couple weeks ago. I was actually thinking the same thing, but I did not want to jump onto that explanation without knowing if these kind of mutations are more common.
     
  6. spencerkm

    spencerkm New Member

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    Seems very likely to be the same mutation, as it looks like there are green needles as well as yellow ones. One very peculiar trait of Kiidk'yaas was that the needles did not start out golden. Instead, the mutation was such that the chlorophyll would bleach out of the needles upon exposure to a certain amount of sunlight. Thus, needles shaded by the outer branches would remain green. If I remember correctly there was some speculation in John Vaillant's The Golden Spruce (a very good book) that there may have been a sweet spot by which green needles could be exposed to enough sunlight to photosynthesize and sustain the plant, but not so much that they'd be bleached.

    I think Vaillant's book mentioned one or two other known individuals with the same mutation, but I might be getting confused with attempts to propagate cuttings of Kiidk'yaas.

    In any case I believe a sapling grafted onto a regular Sitka spruce still survives at the UBC Botanical Garden - so surely somebody can help you get to the bottom of this.
     
  7. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Esteemed Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The golden-needled spruce is something that has occurred more than once, so it could very well be that. However, note that different genetic mutations could all express themselves the same or similar way physically, so it may not be the same mutation causing goldenness in all golden-needled mutations.
     
  8. Michigander

    Michigander Active Member

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    Lucky you! Sounds like you have a mutation like Picea orientalis 'Skylands'. Keep its location a secret and maybe you can name it and sell it. I don't know what that's worth, but 'Skylands' are only propagated via cuttings and are expensive. They too, leaf-out yellow and evolve to green or just greenish if they get more sun than they really like when they are young. You should inquire to some Dutch growers who specialize in evergreens to see if they show interest. As to photosynthesis and chlorophyll, there are three layers having chlorophyll in Hosta. Red chlorophyll (is new growth) evolves to dark green, yellow is caused by only one layer having it (which can be temporary, or not), and green when layers one and two both have it. I don't know if that is pertinent here.
     

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