The leading characters of this little-known spruce appear to be: young branchlets glabrous, reddish brown; buds ovoid, acute, resinous, about 3⁄16 in. long; leaves 3⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long, four-angled, concolorous, rigid, pungent, arranged radially round the shoot as in P. polita. Cones up to 2 in. long, with scales rounded and entire at the apex.
P. maximowiczii was described by Masters in 1880 from a small, stunted bush at Kew, raised from seeds distributed by Regel from St Petersburg in 1865. Plants from the same batch throve better in some continental collections, but grew slowly. The original seeds were collected in Japan by Tschonoski and came either from Fujiyama or from Shinano province (there are coning specimens in the Kew Herbarium from both localities, gathered by Tschonoski). No spruce resembling P. maximowiczii has since been found on Fujiyama, but in 1911 what is supposed to be this species was found by Koyama on Yatsugadake, near the borders between Shinano and Kai provinces. According to Wilson, who saw the stand a few years later, adult trees bear a strong resemblance to P. polita, but really large specimens were rare and mostly confined to temple gardens. He said it was fairly common, however, as a small, bushy, densely branched tree, growing on open moorland between 4,000 and 5,500 ft, and scattered in mixed woods, where it attains 65 ft. Adult trees have a thick, deeply fissured bark.
If the radial arrangement of the leaves is a permanent character of this species, it is doubtful if it is any longer in cultivation in this country. But some authorities consider it to be a juvenile phase, or a characteristic of plants growing at high altitudes. Beissner, for example, considered P. maximowiczii to be nothing but a subalpine variety of P. obovata. A tree at Nymans in Sussex, planted as P. maximowiczii, bears some resemblance to P. obovata, and is of very dense habit. On the other hand, a vigorous tree at Borde Hill in Sussex, believed to have been planted as P. maximowiczii, and said to resemble what is grown under that name in Germany, seems to be near to P. rubens or P. glehnii, and could be a hybrid.