Cancellous bone apparent stiffness and strength are dependent upon material properties at the tissue level and trabecular architecture. Microstructurally accurate, large-scale finite element (LS-FE) models were used to predict the experimental apparent stiffness of human vertebral cancellous bone and to estimate the trabecular hard tissue stiffness. Twenty-eight LS-FE models of cylindrical human vertebral cancellous bone specimens (8 mm in diameter, 9.5 mm in height, one each from twenty-eight individuals) were generated directly from microcomputed tomography images and solved by a special purpose iterative finite element program. The experimental apparent stiffness and strength of the specimens were determined by mechanical testing to failure in the infero–superior direction. Morphometric measurements including bone volume fraction (BV/TV), three eigenvalues of the fabric tensor and average PL were also calculated. The finite element estimate of apparent stiffness explained much of the variance in both experimental apparent stiffness (r²=0.89) and experimental apparent strength (r²=0.87). Stepwise linear regression analysis demonstrated that the LS-FE estimated apparent stiffness was the only significant predictor of experimental apparent stiffness and strength when it was included with all measured morphometric values. Hard tissue stiffness was quite variable between individuals (mean, 5.7 GPa; S.D. 1.6 GPa), but was not significantly related to age, sex, race, weight or morphometric measures for this sample.