The Eldest called this one almost immediately. "Hey mom," he said, as we strolled through the snow, "there's a blue spruce...."
Blue spruce cones look like paper flowers.
The blue spruce is native to central Colorado, and it's fruit is a light chestnut-brown papery cone with scales slightly round-toothed at tip. The cones, for us, made the identification easiest.
A member of the pine family, Picea pungens is rather "pungent" and fragrant when the evergreen needles are crushed between fingers or clasped within tiny fists.
The needles are sharp pointed and extend at right angles all around twig. If misidentification occurs, it is usually mistaken for an Engelmann spruce.
The blue spruce's bark is light to dark gray and made-up of thin scales. You can tell the particular specimen is an older friend if wide, thick ridges are present. The wider, thick-ridged bark marks the sort of Wise Tree worth sitting and ponderizing beneath.
Fortunately, one of the girls slipped a blue spruce cone into her coat pocket and it managed to travel- unnoticed- all the way back to Alabama, where it now sits on the mantle.