Serbian spruce (Picea omorika)
Below Music Plaza, near stairs
If you are totally unfamiliar with spruces in general and uncertain about the identity of this one, reach out boldly and grasp a handful of needles with a firm handshake. If you immediately wish you hadn't, then this is a spruce, most likely Picea omorika.
The Serbian spruce is labled as "endangered" by Moore and White. Once widespread, it has been reduced in natural habitat to a small area along the Drina River, in what used to be Yugoslavia. It is unusually well designed by nature for life under harsh winter conditions; its slender shape and downward-pointing needles are effective at shedding snow, and its slender, upright form provides defense against raging winds.
Serbian spruce may be endangered in nature, but the whims of landscape gardeners have kept it alive and thriving in Europe and North America. It is popular not only for its graceful, upright form, but also for the fact that it is relatively resisitant to all the usual blights of urban life.
Mature specimens of Picea omorika top out at about 100 ft., with a maximum horizontal spread of only about 15 ft. According to a source quoted in Jacobson, a Balkan specimen is reported to be 164 ft. high. The largest in Washington State is only about 65 ft. tall. Ours are threatening.
See Picea omorika on Wikipedia.