An evergreen tree with rather smooth, light-coloured bark. Leaves: slender, rigid, with a few rows of dorsal stomata on the inside, entire, or nearly so. Flowers: scarlet. Fruit: cones maturing the second year, sessile, horizontal, subterminal, oval to globular, purplish-brown; seeds oval, acute, turgid.

This tree grows from twenty to fifty feet high, usually at altitudes between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, and is distinguished by the creamy-white, plate-like scales of the bark; very flexible stout branches; slightly incurved leaves, growing in bundles of five; and horizontal purplish-brown cones which grow without any stalk at the ends of the branches. The large, sweet seeds are eaten by the Indians. At very high altitudes this tree is a low shrub with spreading, nearly prostrate branches.