Stomatal response of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Engelm.) to environmental conditions was studied in the natural subalpine environment and under controlled laboratory conditions. Stomata of naturally occurring trees responded to the difference in absolute humidity from leaf to air. When foliage was exposed to full sunlight, stomatal conductance decreased as the absolute humidity difference increased. In the shade, where photosynthetically active radiation was 10% of that in full sunlight, stomatal closure at large absolute humidity differences was much more complete. No effect of soil or air temperatures on stomatal aperture was observed in the field, nor were differences among three contrasting sites detected. Under growth chamber conditions, stomata responded to photosynthetically active radiation, but conductances were influenced by leaf-to-air differences in absolute humidity. Leaf water potentials below - 15 bars resulted in lower conductances over a range of humidity and light conditions. Because net photosynthesis under shaded conditions in the natural environment must be very low, stomatal closure could result in considerable savings in water while having a minimum effect on net photosynthesis.