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A tree of distinct habit, producing long, weeping, graceful branches; young shoots very thin and slender. Adult leaves in opposite, decussate pairs, narrowly lanceolate, appressed to the twigs at the base, slightly spreading at the end, sharply pointed, 1⁄12 to 1⁄10 in. long. Juvenile leaves often in threes, sometimes in pairs, awl-shaped, 1⁄4 in. long, spine-tipped. Fruits up to 1⁄2 in. wide, angular-globose, reddish brown, covered at first with glaucous bloom, carrying six to twelve seeds.
A native mainly of Mexico, whence it was introduced by Hartweg in 1838. It is found throughout the country, except the extreme south-east, and is one of its most beautiful and distinctive trees. At the northern end of its range it extends into the Chisos mountains of Texas. The most notable specimen in the British Isles, at Bicton in Devon, was blown down in 1967; in 1959 it measured 39 × 41⁄4 ft. There are two small trees at Westonbirt, Glos.
The larger of the two examples at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, in Broad Drive, measures 30 × 21⁄4 ft (1983).