Keteleeria is a genus of conifer from southeast Asia that thrives in high heat and humidity. It is a member of the Pine family, yet bears an amazing resemblance to the Japanese Momi fir (Abies firma) and to the Larches (Larix). It is a new and exciting conifer for the American South, especially the Southeast, where pines are so prevalent. The several species of Keteleeria are found in warm and humid areas of China and Vietnam so tend to do well in regions where the winters are not too severe and the summers long. Keteleeria makes an excellent substitute for the ubiquitous pine and a good alternative to fir trees, which usually cannot tolerate long, hot summers.
In youth, a well-grown Keteleeria is graceful, pyramidal, stiffly upright and formal like a fir or spruce; in maturity, the shape becomes more irregular and flattened. Its needles are narrower than fir or spruce and generally have a more refined texture. And being evergreen, they are handsome bright green, year-round. In addition to that, the new growth emerges pink and maintains a pale, rosey tint into summer.
Most Keteleerias will reach 50-60 feet tall in warm regions at a rate of 1 to 2 feet a year, though rate of growth and height are considerably abbreviated in cooler climes. And finally, also like a fir tree, it bears beautiful upright cones, of a cool, grey-green which mature to a handsome cinnamon.
Keteleeria will thrive in acidic, clay soils and full sun. It is not bothered by pests, or diseases (unlike Larches) and requires no maintenance or pruning other than an occasional shaping and it withstands the long summers of Australia and the American South, including California. Of course it grows elsewhere as well, in the UK and New Zealand and would be just as attractive, and rare, there as well. At this time, Keteleeria is still a connoisseur tree and available in only a handful of nurseries anywhere in the world, but, with time, it should become easier to find.



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