A lofty tree with a trunk 6 to 8 ft in diameter; trees in this country of slender pyramidal form; young shoots glabrous, shining, yellowish grey; winter buds globose, very resinous, bluish at the base. Leaves narrowly linear, 11⁄2 to 23⁄4 in. long, 1⁄16 in. to 1⁄12 in. wide; divided at the apex into two sharp unequal points; bright green above, and with two faintly defined stomatic bands beneath. The leaves are arranged on all sides of the shoot except underneath, the side ones spreading horizontally, the uppermost ones pointing forward. On young plants the leaves are sharply pointed and not divided at the apex. Cones 41⁄2 to 7 in. long, 21⁄2 to 3 in. wide, deep purple, then brown; bracts short and completely hidden.
Native of the W. Himalaya as far east as Kumaon. In the wild state it has been found over 200 ft high but in cultivation specimens of over 90 ft are rare. Although coming from a lower elevation than A. spectabilis and considered to be more tender, it has the advantage of starting into growth later, and thus more often escapes spring frosts. It is seen at its best in the milder, moister parts of the country, and is then extremely handsome. It has been associated as a variety with A. spectabilis, although two firs could scarcely be more distinct. The rough, downy shoots of A. spectabilis, its round-ended leaves vividly white beneath, and the more spreading habit, amply distinguish it.
By far the finest specimen recorded is one at Castle Leod, Ross, which measured 117 × 131⁄4 ft in 1966. Others of good size are: Tregrehan, Cornwall, 97 × 81⁄2 ft (1965); Monk Coniston, Lancs., 90 × 9 ft (1957); Aldourie, Inv., 90 × 81⁄2 ft (1956); Whittingehame, E. Lothian, 88 × 9 ft (1957); Inchmarlo, Kinc., 84 × 111⁄2 ft (1956); Eastnor Castle, Heref., 82 × 51⁄2 ft (1961). There are many dead or dying trees in collections, some of them around 80 ft in height.
var. brevifolia Dallim. & A. B. Jacks. A. gamblei Hickel – This variety differs in its reddish-brown, not grey branchlets (in which character it recalls A. spectabilis), and in its shorter leaves (1 to 11⁄2 in. long), which are more rigid than in the type and pointed, not notched, at the apex. Such forms have been in cultivation since about 1860 and certainly derive from Himalayan seed. Hickel found a good match for this variety in a specimen collected in Garwhal province and raised the variety to specific status as A. gamblei, but it seems preferable to retain it as a variety until the pattern of variation shown by the two Himalayan firs in a wild state is better understood.
var. intermedia Henry – This variety was described from a tree growing at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, planted in 1870, which was thought by Henry to show characters intermediate between A. pindrow and A. spectabilis, but to be nearer to the former. Since these two firs overlap in the western Himalaya it is not unlikely that hybrids or intermediates might occur in nature. The actual tree from which Henry received the specimen cannot now be traced. Another intermediate, but nearer to A. spectabilis, was received from Rostrevor by the late Commander F. Gilliland of Brook House, Londonderry, and given an Award of Merit when a branch was shown at Vincent Square in 1944 (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 68, p. 310, and Vol. 69, p. 375). Mr David Gilliland tells us that the tree now measures 40 × 53⁄4 ft; it was most attractive when younger and fully furnished but is becoming progressively more ugly with age.