Swedish Primary Timber Trees

Sweden’s forests benefit from the Gulf Stream, because its warming effect permits forest growth at northerly latitudes that would otherwise be associated with treeless tundra in other regions. Additionally, eight vegetation zones can be identified in this Scandinavian country:

  • Arctic Alpine
  • Alpine
  • North Boreal
  • Boreal
  • North South Boreal
  • South Boreal
  • Boreo-Nemoral
  • Nemoral

The majority of the country is dominated by the coniferous forests of the Boreal zone and its sub-zones. Not surprisingly, the most common species of tree grown for timber are the coniferous Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

This was confirmed by the Swedish National Forest Survey 2010, revealing that the Norway spruce and Scots pine are the two dominant tree species in Sweden. At the time of the study, the Norway spruce contributed 40.5% to the total volume of Swedish forests, while the Scots pine contributed 38.9%. The rest of the tree species included the lodgepole pine, birch and some broad leaved trees.

According to Skogsstyrelsen, the Swedish Forest Agency, the total standing volume of trees on productive forest land in Sweden in 2011 was about 2.9 billion cubic metres. In 2011 39 % of trees on productive forest land consisted of Scots pine, the Norway spruce contributed 42 % to the total number of trees and 12 % of productive forest land consisted of birch. The remaining 7% consisted of broadleaves and other coniferous species of tree.

The Swedish Forest Agencies’ annual 2011 survey by questionnaire on seedling production for use in the country revealed that seedling production in Sweden was higher than in previous years. 384 million plants were produced in 2011, with the Norway spruce being the commonest species of tree, closely followed by the Scots pine.

59 % of all seedlings produced in 2011 were Norway spruces. This coniferous tree is native to Scandinavia and well known in the timber trade. Scots pine accounts for 35 % of the seedlings produced in 2011. Again, this species is native to Sweden and it is used extensively for timber.

The fast initial growth of the Scots pine means that it is categorised as a pioneer species, while the Norway spruce with its slow initial growth is categorised as a late succession-al species. The Scots pine will establish quickly after fire, extreme wind and other disturbances in natural stands. The late succession-al Norway spruce will dominate undisturbed stands for long periods of time.

The Scots pine will also fare better than the Norway spruce on sites with a low availability of water and nutrients. Therefore, the volume production on sites such as these will be much higher for Scots pine. It will also generally grow faster than the Norway spruce in northern Sweden, since the availability of nutrients is linked to temperature. However, the Norway spruce grows more quickly than the Scots pines in southern Sweden.

Aside from the fact that the Scots pine and Norway spruce are native to Sweden, they are also very important to the timber trade. These coniferous species produce superior timber when grown at northerly latitudes. Norway spruce grown in the UK for example, will have been subject to shorter, warmer and wetter summers, which increases the width of the tree’s growth rings. This makes for a weaker timber with reduced load bearing properties that is more vulnerable to pests.

Norway spruce – Picea abies

Considered to be Sweden’s most important plant in both an economical and ecological sense, the Norway spruce is essentially the feedstock for Sweden’s forest industry, which is one of the country’s most important export industries as a whole.

This softwood has a medium density and a straight grain with a regular thin texture. Although it is not the strongest of woods, it is easy to hand work, machine and saw. Assembling, jointing and gluing can also be easily accomplished with timber from the Norway spruce.

The Norway spruce is also known as the European Whitewood due to the colour of the timber. This lightweight inexpensive lumber is extensively used in pallets and packaging. It is the most important timber in Europe in terms of construction and building. In fact, Swedish Norway spruce lumber is extensively exported as structural lumber for use in external joinery, interior construction, external panelling and flooring. It does need treating in some cases to make it stronger and more resistant to decay, but this does not detract from its value. In fact, once treated, it is a lightweight and extremely durable wood. Other uses include carpentry, furniture, doors, musical instruments, pulp and paper.

Much of the Norway spruce lumber produced in Sweden comes from trees of high grade that are between 75 and 100 years old. These trees from Scandinavia are superior to Norway spruce from elsewhere in the world because the trees come from their native range.

The Scots Pine – Pinus sylvestris

Sweden’s second most important timber producing species is more prevalent in the north of the country. Like the Norway spruce, the Scots pine is another lightweight wood that is valuable to the building and construction industry. It is very durable once treated and prized for its attractive colour and grain of the timber.

Pine is used all over the world in numerous parts of the home including studs, beams, skirting, doorways, stairs and roofing. The timber is also highly popular for making furniture. Other common uses for pine include fencing, pulp and paper and it also makes good firewood with a pleasant smell.

The Scots pine was traditionally considered to be a good tree in terms of coming into contact with water. Ships, boats and water wheels are some of the traditional uses for this timber. It is also interesting to note that both the Scots pine and Norway spruce were used in the past to make turpentine, tar and resin. The waste from Norway spruce and Scots pine timber is also used as biomass for pellet boilers.

The Exports of Swedish forest products in 2010 amounted to a solid volume of 1.3 million m3 of round wood, excluding bark. 99% of that was from coniferous species. This coniferous wood volume consisted of around 39% Scots pine and around 42% Norway spruce, making these two tree species extremely important to Sweden’s economy.