Monday, July 19, 2010


A small genus ( tribe ) of very handsome trees closely related to Pseudotsuga ( Douglas Fir ) that grow large, are pyramidal when young and are massive and spreading with a broad flat crown like the Cedar of Lebanon when old. The branches are whorled and tiered.
The leaves are lance shaped on young plants becoming blunter and thinner as the tree ages.
The wood is soft and white yellow, and is used for construction, furniture, bridges and wood fiber.
Prefers warm, moist, well drained soil that is peaty or with lots of humus. They require hot summers and do not thrive in areas where they do not get 4 or more months with an average day time high of 77 F ( 25 C ).
Propagation is from seed which should be soaked for 12 hours before sowing. It can also be reproduced from cuttings taken from the leading shoot.

Keteleeria calcarea ( Calcarea Keteleeria )
A medium size tree native to Guangxii, Guizhou and Hunan where endangered.
The largest on record is 90 x 60 feet with a trunk diameter of 4.5 feet.
The twigs are yellowish and the exfoliating bark is dark brown in color.
Hardy north to zone 9 and has serious potential as an ornamental tree on the hot, humid Gulf Coast of the U.S.

Keteleeria davidiana ( Qingyan Keteleeria )
A fast growing, evergreen coniferous tree that is native to China and can easily exceed 100 feet. Pyramidal in its youth it eventually develops a habit similar to the Cedar of Lebanon with massive wide spreading branches. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 4 feet; largest in NC - 34 + feet; largest on record - 170 x 80 feet with a trunk diameter of 8 feet. Has been recorded growing up to 3 feet per year in North Carolina.
The somewhat prickly, linear, flat, stiff leaves, up to 3.2 inches in length, are glossy deep green. The foliage looks like that of a Larch but is evergreen.
The upright, brown-scaled cones are up to 8 inches in length.
The shoots are densely hairy and the gray-brown bark is rough and fissured.
Hardy zones 5 to 9; this tree is very heat tolerant and an excellent choice for the Deep South, Southeast and Mid Atlantic though very rare.

* photos taken on June 23 2013 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC

subsp 'formosana'
Native to Taiwan; is shorter reaching a maximum height of a not so small 120 feet
The cones are cylindrical.

Keteleeria evelyniana
A large tree, reaching up to 100 feet or more, that is native to Yunnan Province in China. Some records include: 10 years - 10 x 6 feet; 35 years - 35 feet.
The foliage is bright green. The needles are slightly longer than that of
Keteleeria davidiana.
The upright cones are purple.
Hardy zones 7 to 9 ( reports of 6 unlikely ), being native of cooler summer climates in the mountains of southwest China, it tolerates cooler summers but also the hot humid summers in the southeast including northern Florida. Young trees have been reported to be cut back to near ground level by single digit temperatures then regenerating during spring.

Keteleeria fortunei
A large, fast growing conifer reaching around 80 feet that is native to southeastern China where endangered. In habit it appearance it looks like the Cedar of Lebanon. Some records include: 10 years - 17 x 7 feet; 68 years - 85 feet with a trunk
diameter of 3 feet ( Italy ); largest on record - 120 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 8 feet.
The foliage is straight and pointed, up to 1.5 inches in length. The aromatic foliage is deep glossy green above, light green below and has a strong Pine like fragrance.
The cones are cylindrical, up to 8 inches in length and are light blue-green later turning to orangey brown. The cones enclose seeds that are yellowish brown.
The stems are grayish brown.
The bark is dark gray, furrowed, corky and thick.
Hardy zones 7 to 9, thriving in the southeastern U.S.

* photo taken on July 17 2010 @ Morris Arboretum, Philly, PA

* historical archive photos

Keteleeria pubescens ( Pubescent Keteleeria )
A large coniferous tree to 90 feet that is native to deep soil pockets in warm humid mountain ranges in Guizhou and Guangxi Provinces in China where endangered.
Young trees are pyramidal, older trees become large and flat crowned, resembling Cedrus libani - Cedar of Lebanon in outline. Some records include: largest on record is 100 x 100 feet with a trunk diameter of 5.5 feet. It is very long lived.
The bright green foliage looks somewhat like that of Cephalotaxus.
The bark is dark brown.
Has serious potential as an ornamental tree in hot humid climates where hardy ( zones 7 to 10 - unconfirmed reports of 6 ) including the U.S. Gulf Coast. Drought tolerant.

Keteleeria xerophila ( Dryland Keteleeria )
A medium size coniferous tree reaching a maximum size of 66 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 3 feet. It is extremely endangered and in the wild restricted to the Upper Reaches of Yuanjiang River in Yunnan in Xerothermic Valleys.
The exfoliating bark is brownish gray.
Hardy north to zone 9 and has alot of potential as an ornamental tree for Texas.


  1. Randy,

    Thanks much for your informative posting.

    I've been trying to get my hands on some Keteleeria for years now but, no luck. Tried propagating from seed last year but, again, no luck.

    Any idea where I can purchase some small Keteleeria plants?


    Mike in Gilbert, SC

  2. Can try asking Greer Gardens, they specialize in rare conifers however it does not appear on their inventory
    If people keep requesting it they might hopefully start carrying it. Also calling Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina might be an option. They do have at least one of these and may sell ofspring if they have plant sales ( U.S. National Arboretum in DC does have an annual plant sale with alot of rare plants ).
    Even ForestFarm doesn't have it and they specialize in rare plants. Hopefully it becomes much more widely available. The plant in the photo is among many rare Asian trees being tested on the grounds of Morris Arboretum in Philly, PA. Many of them come directly from regions of Asia with similar climate.
    Here in Maryland, the plant selection available in local nurseries is terrible. It is very easy to find junk such as Bradford Pears but generally if it's good, it is nowhere to be found.
    Hope my advice helps. The tree in the photo taken on July 17 is the only one I've ever seen. Considering were having our hottest July in recorded history after our hottest June ( Philly generally the same as Baltimore ) it definately seems to tolerate our hot humid summers well.