A tree up to 240 ft high in nature, and already more than half that height in cultivation in Britain; young shoots clothed with a reddish-brown minute down; buds roundish, resinous, surrounded at the base by a collar of long-pointed scales free at the tips. Leaves 1⁄2 to 11⁄3 in. long, 1⁄16 in. wide, distinctly grooved on the top, round at the apex, glaucous green, with stomata both above and below; the leaves are very densely arranged on the upper side and at the sides of the shoot, leaving it exposed only underneath; the upper leaves have their bases flattened to the shoot (completely hiding it), then curve abruptly upwards. Cones 6 to 10 in. long, 3 to 31⁄2 in. wide, cylindrical, rounded at the top, of a rich brown-purple, with the green bracts conspicuously protruded and reflexed.
Native of Oregon, Washington, and California; discovered by Douglas in 1825 and introduced by him six years later on his second visit. No fir from western N. America has succeeded better than this in certain parts of the country, and best of all in Scotland, where it regenerates naturally. It enjoys a moist climate and deep soil but will grow quite well in cold, exposed situations and in poor mountain peats. The larger trees in this country, and some younger ones, produce cones in great profusion. These cones are the largest among firs, and, standing stiffly erect, their size and rich colour render them very striking. Unfortunately the noble fir is subject to attacks by an aphis which induces gouty swellings on the shoots, but spraying with aphicide will keep the pest in check on young trees. This fir is most closely allied to A. magnifica, but has a more spreading crown and differs in its grooved leaves. Both are distinct from other firs in the crowded leaves on the upper side of the branchlets having their bases flattened against it. The noble fir varies in the intensity of its glaucous hue, forms most notable in this respect being distinguished as f. glauca (Ravenscroft) Rehd.
The fine trees at Murthly Castle, Perthshire, were mentioned in previous editions; of these the tallest was felled in 1943, the best of those remaining being about 130 ft high. Trees of the original introduction by Douglas, and planted in 1835, grow at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, and Dropmore, Bucks. The tallest examples recorded, to mention only those of over 130 ft, are: Duncraig Castle, Ross, 150 × 11 ft (1961); Inveraray, Argyll, by Dubh Loch,. pl. 1873, 147 × 10 and 136 × 71⁄4 ft (1953-4); Stourhead, Wilts, 140 × 12 ft (1965); Bolderwood, Hants, 138 × 131⁄2 ft, a superb tree (1954); Dupplin Castle, Perths., 135 × 10 ft (1954); Benmore, Argyll, 133 × 9 ft (1956); Kirkennan, Kirkc., 132 × 101⁄2 ft, fine bole (1954); Durris House, Kinc., 132 × 141⁄4 ft (1955); Cowdray Park, Sussex, 132 × 10 ft (1967); Castle Milk, Dumf., pl. 1884, 130 × 91⁄2 ft (1954).