A round-headed tree up to 45 ft (rarely 60 ft) high, or a shrub; its trunk occasionally 2 to 3 ft in diameter. Young shoots to 1⁄16 in. thick with the scale-like, grey-green, overlapping leaves closely pressed to the stem, and arranged in threes; the exposed part is diamond-shaped, 1⁄16 in. long, bluntish, with a conspicuous gland on the back. The leaves on juvenile shoots are awl-shaped, sharply pointed, keeled at the back, 1⁄8 in. long, sometimes in pairs. Fruits subglobose to egg-shaped, 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long, covered with a glaucous bloom, carrying two or three seeds.
Native of N.W. America from the State of Washington and British Columbia to California; first collected by Douglas about 1829. It has always been very rare in cultivation although as it has been found up to elevations of 10,000 ft it should be hardy enough. Douglas found trees 50 to 60 ft high with clean erect trunks.