The general shape of the tree is conical with tiered, horizontal branches that are often somewhat pendulous toward the tips. Cunninghamia bears softly spined, leathery, stiff, green to blue-green needle-like leaves that spiral around the stem with an upward arch; they are 2–7 cm long and 3–5 mm broad at the base, and bear two white or greenish-white stomatal bands underneath and sometimes also above. The foliage may turn bronze-tinted in very cold winter weather. The cones are small and inconspicuous at pollination in late winter, the pollen cones in clusters of 10–30 together, the female cones singly or 2–3 together. The seed cones mature in 7–8 months to 2.5–4.5 cm long, ovoid to globose, with spirally arranged scales; each scale bears 3–5 seeds.