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What Is the State Tree of Colorado? Uses, Symbols, & History

Colorado blue spruce

Colorado, or the Centennial State, is in the Western United States and includes the Southern Rocky Mountains. It has a population of nearly 6 million people and the name “Colorado” is Spanish for “ruddy,” which is the color of the red sandstone found throughout the area. The Blue Spruce, which is prevalent throughout Colorado but was first discovered on Pikes Peak in 1862, is the state tree of Colorado.

Although the Blue Spruce, which is also the state tree of Utah, was voted as the state tree by schoolchildren on National Arbor Day in 1892, it was not officially chosen or recognized until 1939 when it was passed as the official tree by an act of the General Assembly.

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About the Colorado Blue Spruce

The Colorado Blue Spruce was first discovered in the state in 1862 by botanist C.C. Parry. It was named by George Engelmann in 1879. On National Arbor Day, 1892, it was chosen as the state tree by schoolchildren but wasn’t formally recognized until 1939.

Although called the Blue Spruce, the tree can vary in color from blue to green and even a silver color. The tree can grow to heights of 100 feet but, because it has knotty wood and is weak when compared to other trees, it is rarely used as lumber. It is most commonly used as an ornamental tree in gardens and as a natural windbreak. The tree is abundant and has a conservation status of Least Concern, which means that its numbers are considered stable or increasing.

Uses for the Blue Spruce

The Blue Spruce is not considered a good tree for lumber because the wood is knotted and is weaker than the timber from other trees. However, it is planted in Coloradan gardens and used as a windbreak. The Keres and Navajo Native American tribes use it medicinally, especially to help combat digestive problems and rheumatic pain. It is used by the same tribal people as a Christmas gift when it is given as a good luck charm.

Other Colorado State Symbols

Like many states, Colorado has a variety of state symbols and items. As well as the Blue Spruce, Colorado has its own state fossil, the stegosaurus; state folk dance, the square dance; and state mineral, rhodochrosite. Other state symbols include:

State Animal – Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is known for being hardy and for having good balance, which it needs because this sheep lives in the difficult terrain of the Rocky Mountains. It was named the state sheep in 1961.

State Flower – White and Lavender Columbine

The state flower, the White and Lavender Columbine, was actually officially recognized before the state tree in 1899. Like the Blue Spruce, it was chosen by schoolchildren, and there are restrictions on the number of wild examples that can be picked since the plant is protected from general destruction and damage by state rules.

State Fish – Greenback Cutthroat Trout

The Greenback Cutthroat Trout was thought to be extinct, but in the 1990s, small populations were found and have been reintroduced to lakes and rivers where their numbers have started to increase. The Greenback Cutthroat Trout was officially recognized as the Colorado state fish in 1994.

State Bird – Lark Bunting

The Lark Bunting is found in the plains of Colorado from April onwards before migrating for winter in September. It grows to around 6 inches and has white patches. It was chosen as the state bird in 1931.

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The Blue Spruce is the state tree of Colorado and is also the state tree of Utah. It was voted for by schoolchildren and formally recognized by an act of the General Assembly in 1939. The tree itself is most commonly used as an ornamental tree in gardens and also as a natural windbreak because of the cover it provides. Other state symbols include the Greenback Cutthroat Trout, the Lark Bunting, and the Square Dance.

Featured Image Credit: barmalini, Shutterstock


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