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Featured Plant

Cedrus spp.


Scientific Name: Cedrus spp.

Common Names: Four True Cedars

Family: Pinaceae

Plant Type: Tree

Environment: Plant in deep, well drained soil. All species are deep rooted and drought tolerant once established

Bloom: Pollination occurs in autumn with seeds maturing the same time a year later

Uses: There is some discussion among botanists regarding how many true species of Cedrus actually exist. Some think C. brevifolia and C. atlantica should be considered subspecies of C. libani. Cedar is commonly used to make shoe trees because it deodorizes and absorbs moisture. The name 'cedar' has been applied to other trees with scented wood, such as the Japanese incense cedar and the California incense cedar



Cedrus spp.

There are only four true cedars in the world and they grow from Lebanon and Syria to the Himalayas. The so called red "cedar" of the Pacific Northwest and the incense "cedar" of California, are not true cedars at all, but members of the cypress family with foliage of flattened green scales.

True cedars are members of the pine family, and have dense clusters of needles, growing spirally from stout pegs along the twigs and branches. They are very similar to larch needles, except that cedar needles are evergreen, and larch are deciduous. Barrel shaped cones grow upright on cedar branches and shatter when old. All are drought tolerant and can grow to great size. On the Great Lawn of the San Francisco Botanical Garden you can find all four species growing side by side.

  • Cedrus libani, Lebanon cedar, is referred to many times in the Bible as a symbol of vigor and strength. It has a massive trunk, with dark green needles. Its wood is fragrant, durable and highly decay resistant.Its cones are 6 to 8 high. Legend tells us that King Solomon's temple was built of Cedrus libani. The royal temples of Egypt are also reported to have used cedar in their construction.

  • Cedrus deodaraDeodar cedar, grows from Afghanistan to the Himalayas and is also widely planted in the western world. It can reach 200 feet with graceful branches that sweep downward, then upwards to a nodding pyramidal top. Its blue-green needles are 1 to 2 inches, longer than the other cedar species.

  • Cedrus atlantica, Atlas cedar, from the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco has inch long gray-green needles. Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca', a cultivar, is remarkable with intense silver needles. There are other cultivars with pendulous or weeping habits.

  • Cedrus brevifolia, or Cyprus cedar, is rare and grows only on the island of Cyprus. With age, it develops an umbrella-shaped crown and has the shortest of all needles: .2 to .6 inches long.


Photos by Joanne Taylor; text by Kathy McNeil; profile by David Kruse-Pickler


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