Description from Flora of China
Shrubs, rarely small trees, dioecious, rarely monoecious; bark grayish brown; branchlets densely arranged, ascending, slender, 0.8-1 mm in diam. Leaves both scalelike and needlelike; needlelike leaves usually present on young plants, rarely present on adult plants, decussate or in whorls of 3, closely appressed, 3-7 mm, concave adaxially, convex abaxially, apex sharply pointed; scalelike leaves decussate, rhombic or rhombic-ovate, 1-2.5 mm, abaxial gland central, prominent, elliptic. Pollen cones ellipsoid or oblong, 3-4 mm; microsporophylls 10-14, each with 2-4 pollen sacs. Seed cones light brownish green, brown, purplish blue, or black when ripe, often glaucous, usually irregularly globose, 5-8 × 5-9 mm, (1 or)2-seeded. Seeds ovoid, slightly flattened, 4-5 mm, ridged, with resin pits, apex blunt or slightly pointed.
At least 12 varieties have been described in this very wide-ranging species; it must be noted that ± straight fertile branchlets are occasionally found on specimens from C Asia and
Forests or thickets on rocky mountain slopes and sand dunes; 1000-3300 m. Gansu, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, NE Qinghai, N Shaanxi, N Sichuan, Xinjiang [Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia (Far East, Siberia); SW Asia, Europe]