Picea purpurea Mast.


A tall columnar spruce with distinct purple cones. Logging has reduced its area of occupancy and it has been assessed as Near Threatened.

Associated Names:

Purple Cone Spruce and zi guo yun shan (紫果云杉)


Taxonomic notes

Recent genetic research indiactes that this taxon originally arose as a homoploid hybrid between Picea wilsonii and P. likiangensis during the Pleistocene.


Endemic to China where it is found in S Gansu, E Qinghai, and NW Sichuan. It forms extensive forests in NW Sichuan and in the Min Shan. Logging has occurred in these forests but substantial areas of natural or semi-natural forest remain

Habitat and Ecology

Picea purpurea is a subalpine species of continental mountains, occurring in a spruce belt at elevations between 2,600 m and 3,600 m a.s.l., predominantly on north-facing slopes. The soils are either grey-brown mountain soils or lithosols, usually podzolic. The climate is cold continental, with low to moderate precipitation, much of it as winter snow. It grows in pure forests or mixed with several other species of Pinaceae, e.g. Picea asperata, P. wilsonii,), Larix potaninii, and Abies fargesii, which prevails above the spruce belt towards the tree line, and with some broad-leaved trees, usually Populus spp. and Betula spp. in clearings. At lower elevations Tsuga chinensis and Quercus spp. may occur.

Human Uses

This species yields high quality timber used for construction, furniture making, poles, machine and instrument making, including musical instruments, and to a limited extent for pulp in industrial manufacturing, e.g. paper. It was introduced to England early in the 20th century by Ernest Wilson and Joseph Rock and is commonly found growing in arboreta both in Europe and North America, but sometimes misidentified as P. likiangensis, or treated as a variety of it (for the U.K. presumably based on its treatment in Dallimore & Jackson's Handbook, 1966). According to Rushforth (1987) introductions by Wilson from western Sichuan grow to taller, more columnar trees than those from Rock's collections, originating from southern Gansu, where the climate is drier and colder in winter

Conservation Status

Global Status and Rationale

Picea purpurea has suffered a reduction in its population over the past 100 years but substantial areas of forest remain. Its reduction is estimated to have been below the threshold for Vulnerable, but it remains to be seen whether the current logging ban will have completely halted it. If logging continues to a lesser extent, this species could meet the criteria for a threatened listing in the near future (A2cd). Accordingly the category Near Threatened appears most appropriate

Global Threats

Logging where not accompanied by satisfactory natural regeneration (whether due to fire or grazing) has reduced the area of occupancy.

Conservation Actions

This species is present in a few protected areas within its range. Additionally the Chinese government’s current ban on further logging in sensitive areas should enhance the conservation of this species