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Fokienia hodginsii is a rare and very dramatic conifer from China. The genus is monotypic meaning there is but one known species. It comes from the Fukien (Fokien), Chekiang, and Kweichow provinces and only came to the west in 1909 when Captain A. Hodgins found it growing in 1904.

The chief appeal is the bright, slightly olive green foliage that is larger and more dramatic than even the wide needles of Calocedrus and Thujopsis. The gloss is similarly impressive as those genera. I prefer it over Calocedrus macrolepis. If there ever was a fern-like conifer this is it.

It is not terribly cold hardy (USDA 7B-8?) but we found it durable and apparently unharmed at Hampton Roads Arboretum in Virginia. W.J. Bean says that hardiness has limited it in the UK where one 30 year old plant at Borde Hill was just four feet tall. Another one at Exbury managed to be just 6 feet after many years. This tree in Norfolk was easily 5 feet in less than 10 years. In the wild it grows to 40-50 feet. The foliage is so dramatic it also bears consideration for a large container in a conservatory.

It has an almost other-worldly look, more prehistoric and primeval than simply tropical. You can almost hear the rustle of a Velocaraptor. It is not what one expects to see in a conifer in Virginia or Georgia or even California. Any arboretum in zones 7 and warmer without one is missing a real treat and certain crowd-pleaser.

Click image to enlarge.