A tree 100 to 150 ft high, of pyramidal form, but abruptly narrowed near the top into a slender, steeple-like apex; young shoots pale green, perfectly glabrous; winter buds 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, slenderly conical, the scales being loose, pale brown, non-resinous. Leaves flat, stiff, and spine-tipped; 11⁄4 to 21⁄4 in. long, 1⁄10 in. wide; dark shining green, with two blue-white bands of stomata beneath; the leaves are aggregated into two sets, one each side of the shoot, leaving a broad V-shaped opening between. Cones 3 to 4 in. long, 2 to 21⁄2 in. wide, egg-shaped, purplish brown, each bract terminated by a slender, stiff, spine-tipped point, 1 to 2 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 4740.
Native of, and confined to, the Santa Lucia Mountains, California; discovered in 1832; introduced by W. Lobb in 1853. It is in several respects the most remarkable of all firs: its pyramidal spire-topped shape and its buds are quite unlike those of any other species; its spine-tipped, never notched, leaves are comparable only with those of A. cephalonica; and, chief of all, the bayonet-like terminations of the bracts projecting all round the cone are only seen in this species. The tree generally is not a success, owing to its susceptibility to late spring frosts, and appears to be rather short-lived, judging from the high casualty rate found by A. F. Mitchell among the trees mentioned by Elwes and Henry (1906-8) and in the R.H.S. Conifer Conference returns (1931). Best placed in a moist and sheltered position, with good air drainage.
The following are some of the larger specimens, and others whose planting dates are known: Eastnor Castle, Heref., 117 × 151⁄4 ft (1961); Bodnant, Denbigh, pl. 1891, 114 × 101⁄2 ft (1966); University of Exeter, Devon, 105 × 11 and 85 × 113⁄4 ft (1967); Mells Park, Somerset, 97 × 83⁄4 ft (1966); Althorp, Northants, 96 × 9 ft (1964); Nymans, Sussex, pl. 1908, 64 × 51⁄4 ft (1957); Stanage Park, Radnor, pl. 1909, 72 × 6 ft (1959); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1922, 56 × 43⁄4 ft (1961).