Popular as a living or cut Christmas tree. It reaches 70200 ft. tall in Western forests; in gardens it is more likely to grow 4080 ft. tall and 1220 ft. wide. Trees are cone shaped and foliaged to the ground when young, but lose lower limbs as they age. Soft, densely set, green or blue-green needles to 1 in. long radiate in all directions from the branches; they give off a lemon scent when crushed. Pointed, wine-red buds form at branch tips in winter, then open to apple green new growth in spring. Reddish brown, oval cones are about 3 in. long, with three-pronged bracts. Unlike upright cones of true firs (Abies), these hang down.
Native from Alaska through Northern California, eastward into the Rocky Mountains, and southward into northern Mexico. In the Upper South (USDA 6), tree is fast growing, dark green, with slightly drooping branchlets. Rocky Mountain form, P. m. glauca, is blue-green and slower growing, more cold tolerant, more compact, and stiffer than the species. Compact, weeping, and other forms are grown mostly in arboretums and botanical gardens. All tolerate wind; will grow in most soils except boggy ones. Deer don't browse them.