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A tree over 100 ft high in Japan; in cultivation a small pyramidal tree of very stiff habit; branches rigid and densely clothed with leaves; young shoots not downy, pale and yellowish the first year; terminal buds conical, shining brown, with closely appressed scales. Leaves set all round the shoot except for an open V-shaped groove beneath; they are 13⁄4 in. long, 1⁄12 in. wide; diamond-shaped in cross-section, very rigid, somewhat curved, spine-tipped; dark glossy green, with four to seven faint lines of stomata on all four surfaces. Cones 21⁄2 to 4 in. long, 11⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. wide before opening; brown when mature; scales minutely toothed.
Native of Japan; introduced by J. G. Veitch in 1861. This spruce is decidedly one of the most distinct and striking in the genus, especially in the comparatively long, thick, rigid, spine-tipped leaves standing out at almost right angles to the shoot. It is also one of the handsomest, and in a young state forms a shapely tree suitable for an isolated position on a lawn. It is a very hardy spruce, but not quick-growing. The pegs, or persisting bases of the leaves, left on the shoot are unusually large and prominent.
One of the oldest and largest specimens of P. polita grows at Stourhead, Wilts. Planted 1871, it measures 83 × 71⁄2 ft (1970). The largest in the Home Counties is a tree at Petworth House, Sussex, measuring 80 × 71⁄4 ft (1971).
specimens: Petworth House, Sussex, 85 × 71⁄4 ft (1983); Stourhead, Wilts., pl. 1871, 90 × 8 ft (1984); Keir House, Perths., 56 × 33⁄4 ft (1985); Strone House, Argyll, 75 × 61⁄2 ft (1985); Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 64 × 61⁄2 ft (1980).