A tree to 180 ft in nature, occasionally over 200 ft, with a narrowly conical crown and reddish bark; young shoots furnished with a minute down; buds resinous at the top, more or less concealed by leaves. Leaves 1 to 13⁄4 in. long, 1⁄12 in. wide; glaucous green, with stomata on all surfaces; blunt, but not notched at the apex, nor grooved along the upper surface. On old cone-bearing branches they are pointed, stiffer, shorter, and diamond-shaped in cross-section. The leaves are crowded on the top as much as on the sides of the shoot; those on the top have their bases flattened to, and nearly hiding the stem, then curve upwards. Cones 6 to 8 in. long, about half as wide, purple when young, afterwards brown; bracts enclosed (except in the variety mentioned below). Bot. Mag., t. 8552.
Native of Oregon and California; introduced by Jeffrey in 1851. It is a strikingly elegant tree of slender conical shape and should be planted more widely. It is seen at its best in the cooler and rainier parts of the British Isles but some good specimens in the south of England (see below) suggest that it could be grown in a drier climate provided it is given a sheltered position and moist soil. However, it grows poorly in the Thames Valley and will not tolerate a polluted atmosphere. A. F. Mitchell has observed that it gains rapidly in girth in early years but appears to be rather short-lived (in nature the rate of growth is slower but the life-span 250 years or more). From A. procera, to which it is allied, it may be distinguished by its longer, never-grooved needles.
With but one exception the tallest extant specimens are all in Scotland: Blair Atholl, Perths., 116 × 101⁄4 ft (1955); Dunkeld, Perths., two on the Cathedral Lawn, 115 × 91⁄2 and 115 × 81⁄4 (1961), and another by Dunkeld House, 110 × 91⁄4 ft (1962); Glamis Castle, Angus. pl. 1864, 112 × 101⁄2 ft (1955); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 110 × 93⁄4 and 101 × 101⁄4 ft (1961); Cragside, Northumb., 105 × 81⁄2 ft (1958). In the south, the best recorded are: Borde Hill, Sussex, 80 × 7 ft (1961), an earlier measurement being 24 × 3 ft (1931); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1917, 64 × 71⁄4 ft (1963); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, pl. 1925, 64 × 8 ft (1965).
var. shastensis Lemm. – Cones shorter and thicker, with the bracts conspicuously protruded.