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Cedar (Cedrus) is a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae. They are most closely related to the Firs (Abies), and share a very similar cone structure. They are native to the mountains of the western Himalayamarker and the Mediterranean region, occurring at altitudes of 1,500–3,200 m in the Himalaya and 1,000–2,200 m in the Mediterranean.


Foliage of Atlas Cedar
Cedars are trees up to 30–40 m (occasionally 60 m) tall with spicy-resinous scented wood, thick ridged or square-cracked bark, and broad, level branches. The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots, which form the framework of the branches, and short shoots, which carry most of the leaves. The leaves are evergreen and needle-like, 8–60 mm long, arranged in an open spiral phyllotaxis on long shoots, and in dense spiral clusters of 15–45 together on short shoots; they vary from bright grass-green to dark green to strongly glaucous pale blue-green, depending on the thickness of the white wax layer which protects the leaves from desiccation. The seed cones are barrel-shaped, 6–12 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, green maturing grey-brown, and, as in Abies, disintegrate at maturity to release the winged seeds. The seeds are 10–15 mm long, with a 20–30 mm wing; as in Abies, the seeds have 2–3 resin blisters, containing an unpleasant-tasting resin, thought to be a defense against squirrel predation. Cone maturation takes one year, with pollination in autumn and the seeds maturing the same time a year later. The pollen cones are slender ovoid, 3–8 cm long, produced in late summer and shedding pollen in autumn.


There are five taxa of Cedrus, assigned according to taxonomic opinion to two to four different species:
  • Deodar or Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara (Roxb.) G.Don. Western Himalayamarker. Leaves bright green to pale glaucous green, 25–60 mm; cones with slightly ridged scales.
  • Lebanon Cedar or Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani. Mountains of the Mediterranean region, from Turkey and Lebanon west to Morocco. Leaves dark green to glaucous blue-green, 8–25 mm; cones with smooth scales; four varieties, which are treated as species by many authors:
    • Lebanon Cedar Cedrus libani var. libani Mountains of Lebanonmarker, western Syriamarker and south-central Turkeymarker. Leaves dark green to glaucous blue-green, 10–25 mm.
    • Turkish Cedar Cedrus libani var. stenocoma (O.Schwarz) Frankis (syn. Cedrus libani subsp. stenocoma (O.Schwarz) Davis). Mountains of southwest Turkeymarker. Leaves glaucous blue-green, 8–25 mm.
    • Cyprus Cedar Cedrus libani var. brevifolia Hook.f. (syn. Cedrus libani subsp. brevifolia (Hook.f.) Meikle; Cedrus brevifolia (Hook.f.) A.Henry). Mountains of Cyprusmarker. Leaves glaucous blue-green, 8–20 mm.
    • Atlas Cedar Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Endl.) Hook.f. (syn. Cedrus libani subsp. atlantica (Endl.) Batt. & Trab.; Cedrus atlantica (Endl.) Manetti ex Carrière). Atlas mountains in Moroccomarker & Algeriamarker. Leaves dark green to glaucous blue-green, 10–25 mm.
A cedar in Lebanon
The treatment of the Turkish, Cyprus and Atlas Cedars as varieties or subspecies of Lebanon Cedar is found primarily in botanical and floristic works, while treatment as separate species is more widespread in popular horticultural use, but also in some botanical works. The discrepancy in treatment derives largely from the very narrow gene base of trees in cultivation, which gives a false impression of distinctiveness of the taxa, not borne out when the wider range of variation found in wild trees is examined. The Deodar Cedar is more distinct and almost universally accepted as a separate species, though very rarely, it has also been treated as a subspecies of Lebanon Cedar, C. libani subsp. deodara (Roxb.) P.D.Sell, thus regarding the genus as comprising a single species.


Cedars are adapted to mountainous climates; in the Mediterranean they receive winter precipitation, mainly as snow, and summer drought, while in the western Himalaya, they receive primarily summer monsoon rainfall.

Cedars are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Pine Processionary and Turnip Moth (recorded on Deodar Cedar).


a cluster of cedar needles

Cedar wood is not only scented, but also has an attractive colour and grain
Cedars are very popular ornamental trees, widely used in horticulture in temperate climates where winter temperatures do not fall below about −25 °C. The Turkish Cedar is slightly hardier, to −30 °C or just below. Extensive mortality of planted specimens can occur in severe winters where temperatures do drop lower. Areas with successful long-term cultivation include the entire Mediterranean region, western Europe north to the British Isles, southern Australia and New Zealand, and southern and western North America.

They are also grown for their durable (decay-resistant) scented wood,resistance to weather, such as shakes and shingles. Cedar wood and cedar oil is known to be a natural repellent to moths, hence cedar is a popular lining for modern-day closets in which woolens are stored. This specific use of cedar is mentioned in The Iliad (Book 24), referring to the cedar-roofed or lined storage chamber where Priam goes to fetch treasures to be used as ransom. Cedar is also commonly used to make shoe trees as it can absorb moisture and de-odorise.

Timber of trees with similar names, such as Western Red Cedar is frequently confused with genuine cedar.

The Cedar of Lebanon, and to a lesser extent, the Deodar have local cultural importance.


Both the Latin words cedrus and the generic name cedrus are derived from the Greek 'kedros'. Ancient Greek and Latin used the same word, kedros and cedrus respectively, for different species of plants now classified in the genera Cedrus and Juniperus (juniper). Species of both genera are native to the area where Greek language and culture originated, though as the word "kedros" does not seem to be derived from any of the languages of the Middle East, it has been suggested the word may originally have applied to Greek species of juniper and was later adopted for species now classified in the genus Cedrus because of the similarity of their aromatic woods. The name was similarly applied to citron and the word citrus is derived from the same root. However, as a loan word in English, cedar had become fixed to its biblical sense of Cedrus by the time of its first recorded usage in AD 1000.

The name "cedar" has more recently (since about 1700) been applied to many other trees with scented wood (in some cases with the botanical name alluding to this usage). Such usage is regarded by some authorities as a misapplication of the name to be discouraged.

See also


  1. Farjon, A. (1990). Pinaceae. Drawings and Descriptions of the Genera. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3-87429-298-3.
  2. Frankis, M. & Lauria, F. (1994). The maturation and dispersal of cedar cones and seeds. International Dendrology Society Yearbook 1993: 43–46.
  3. Hooker, J. D. (1862). On the Cedars of Lebanon, Taurus, Algeria and India. Nat. Hist. Rev. 2: 11–18.
  4. Frankis, M. & Lauria, F. (1994). The maturation and dispersal of cedar cones and seeds. International Dendrology Society Yearbook 1993: 43–46.
  5. Battander, J.-A. & Trabut, L. (1905). Flora de l'Algérie.
  6. Schwarz, O. (1944). Anatolica. Feddes Repertorium 54: 26-34.
  7. Coode, M. J. E., & Cullen, J., eds. (1965). Pinaceae. In: Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands 1: 67–85. Edinburgh University Press.
  8. Meikle, R. D. (1977). Flora of Cyprus vol. 1. Bentham - Moxon Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. London.
  9. Browicz, K. & Zielinski, J. (1982). Chorology of Trees and Shrubs in southwest Asia vol. 1.
  10. Greuter, W., Burdet, H. M., & Long, G. (eds.), (1984). Med-Checklist — A critical inventory of vascular plants of the circum-mediterranean countries. Cedrus, Cedrus libani
  11. Güner, A., Özhatay, N., Ekim, T., & Başer, K. H. C. (ed.). 2000. Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands 11 (Supplement 2): 5–6. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1409-5
  12. Walters, W. M. (1986). European Garden Flora Vol 1. ISBN 0-521-24859-0.
  13. Christou, K. A. (1991). The genetic and taxonomic status of Cyprus Cedar, Cedrus brevifolia (Hook.) Henry. Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Greece.
  14. Gymnosperm database Cedrus.
  15. Gaussen, H. (1964). Genre Cedrus. Les Formes Actuelles. Trav. Lab. For. Toulouse T2 V1 11: 295–320
  16. Sell, P. D. (1990). Some new combinations in the British Flora. Watsonia 18: 92.
  17. Ødum, S. (1985). Report on frost damage to trees in Denmark after the severe 1981/82 and 1984/85 winters. Hørsholm Arboretum, Denmark.
  18. Cedarwood oils
  19. Meiggs, R. 1982. Trees and Timber in the Ancient Mediterranean World.
  20. Andrews, A. C. 1961. Acclimatization of citrus fruits in the Mediterranean region. Agricultural History 35: 35–46.
  21. Oxford English Dictionary.
  22. Kelsey, H. P., & Dayton, W. A. (1942). Standardized Plant Names, second edition. American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature. Horace McFarland Company, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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