Tree 16–18m tall, monoecious; trunk, d.b.h. 2–3m. Bark thick, deeply fissured, exfoliating in longitudinal strips. Branches spreading or ascending, forming a conical or pyramidal tree.
Spreading or drooping to pendulous. Leaves, scale-like (all equal in size), arranged in opposite pairs at right angles to those above or below, overlapping, gradually tapering, with glands, stomata few and scattered on margins near leaf base; shiny greyish-green or glaucous green.
Male pollen-cones on branches close to female cones, solitary, terminal, ovoid, 4–6 x 2–3mm, yellowish-brown when mature. Female seed-cones solitary on lateral branches, terminal on short leafy branchlets, subglobose to ovoid-oblong, 15–27 x 13–21mm, light brown when mature; bract-scale complexes 10–12 in opposite pairs at right angles to those above or below. Seeds 6–8mm, closely packed, ovoid-globose, or more angular, flattened, dark brown, wings 2 on opposite sides, 1–2mm wide.
In Morocco, historically, the wood was utilized for making joists and beams in order to build houses and in the building of large gates for the entrances of old town walls (Bellefontaine, 1979; Achhal, 1986). The larger branches of the trees were utilized to make chairs and tables and other furniture and the smaller branches were collected during the summer and stored for winter feed for the local Berber herds of goats and donkeys. Today substantial amounts of seeds are collected annually for commercial horticulture. In Algeria the wood was highly valued for construction and carpentry and today the main use is for fuel.