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Cedar Trees: What Should You Know?

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There is a lot of misconception surrounding cedar trees. True cedar grow and live in Europe in the Mediterranean and Himalayan areas. They are a coniferous tree that features many similarities to the fir tree (Abies). However, the trees that Americans know as cedar are not cedar at all. The cedar living in North America are “false cedars” and do not belong to the Cedrus genus. In reality, there are only four different species of true cedar and we can only find them in Europe. A true cedar can grow to 130 feet in height and sometimes taller. Overall, they are very popular ornamental trees and we use them for landscaping and to improve the looks of a backyard. Additionally, they are not the hardiest species, needing a temperate climate that does not get too cold.

So how many kinds of cedar trees are there?

It was initially believed that because of the similar cone structure of a cedar that they were closely related to fir trees. Eventually after scientists could look at the molecular structure of cedar, they found they were separate entities. They could distinguish four separate species in the Cedrus family. All cedar are from the Pinaceae family. This means they share many characteristics with all the other pine trees. They are coniferous and produce cones. Altogether, all four species of cedar are very similar, with slight differences in cone shape and needle color.

  • Atlas Cedar

Primarily found in the Atlas Mountains, the Atlas cedar is a dark green cedar tree. It grows close to 120 feet in height. Furthermore, gardeners seek out the Atlas tree for ornamental planting because it is more tolerant to dry and warm conditions compared to most conifers.

  • Cyprus Cedar

The Cyprus cedar is a shorter tree growing only to 80 feet. Also, it is located only in central Cyprus.

  • Himalayan Cedar

The Himalayan cedar loves high altitudes, living in the mountains at 5,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude. It further searches for height by growing over 150 feet. Notably, the Hindu religion considers the Himalayan cedar to be a divine tree and worship it.

  • Lebanese Cedar

The Lebanese cedar grows in the Mediterranean basin. This tree also holds significant religious impact for the cultures of the Middle East. In particular, it is the national symbol of Lebanon and grows to 130 feet in height. Moreover, they live for a long time and do not produce cones until they are at least 40 years old.

How Large do Cedar Trees Grow?

Overall, cedars vary in size, dependent on the species. The Cyprus cedar is much shorter, typically only reaching 80 feet in height. Conversely, the other three species all can climb to 130 feet or higher.

The cedar is a very large coniferous tree. Not only are they tall, but they are also quite wide. According to the Forest Service, the Atlas cedar stretches close to 40 feet across where the Lebanese cedar can be as wide as 80 feet.

Cedars create thick a bushy shape. Therefore, they are one of the ideal choices for ornamental trees. You will find the branches for almost the entire length of the trunk.

What does a Cedar Tree look like?

The four cedars are large and expansive. They can grow in almost any shape, but most grow in the traditional conical shape of pine trees. Moreover, the cones that fall from these trees are barrel shaped and smooth. The needles of the trees vary in color between the four species, from a blue-green to a dark green color.

The bark is dark brown to gray. Also, the bark will fissure as the trees age. Overall, the grow in a conical shape, but sometimes the growth can become so cumbersome that the tree loses shape. It is easy to shape as it grows if you keep an excellent control of it.

Since cedars are coniferous, they keep their needles year-round. In the mean time, the cones fall in the autumn and are scattered around the ground unless carried off by animals.

Where can I Find a Cedar Tree?

True cedars are native only to the Mediterranean and Himalayan portions of Europe. We find each species only in a distinct area. The Atlas cedar grow in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The Cyprus cedar are heavily populating Cyprus. Additionally, the Himalayan cedars tower in the Himalayan mountains. Finally, the Lebanese cedars are honored and abundant across Lebanon.  

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Lebanese Cedar

Lebanese Cedar

How Long Can a Cedar Tree Live?

Cedars are long living trees often reaching 1000 years in age. They are a fast-growing tree. At the present time, they grow one to two feet every year. Scientists have fossil records back to the Early Cretaceous period in Russa. The fossils are from an extinct species of the Cedrus genus.

Can I Grow a Cedar Tree?

GardeningKnowHow has some great tips on how to best grow cedar trees. You can grow a cedar with minor issue, though they thrive in certain environments. All things considered, there are botanical gardens all over the world that show that the cedar can grow almost anywhere if tended to properly.

The cones grow a year after fertilization on the ground. The cones fall in the autumn and will grow one year later.

Plant the cedar in an area where it will have room to expand. A big backyard without obstructions is ideal. It is best to plant these cedar as single trees. Also, cedars need deep soil to expand their roots. They grow best at altitudes above 4000 feet. In their natural habitats, cedars love to grow on a slope facing the sea.

It is time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • We consider wood from cedar trees a high-quality wood.
  • Homer mentions cedar trees and cedar oil in The Illiad.
  • Ancient Babylonians used cedar wood to build their naval fleets.

What Are Some Uses for Cedar Trees?

We have used cedar wood all throughout history. As has been noted, we have many historical records of the use of cedar wood.

Natural Uses

The cedar tree holds great significance in many cultures in Eastern Europe. The Hindus worship it as a divine tree. The leaves and wood are antiseptic and can disinfect the respiratory tract. Furthermore, many cultures extract cedar oil from the wood and use it for perfume. The actual wood when used in construction keeps this perfume like smell. It naturally repels moths and so we use it in construction for furniture that contains clothes.

Cedar oil even has medicinal applications. We have seen it help anxiety, sleep, and skin conditions. Also, the oil is excellent as both an anti-microbial and anti-bacterial.

Cedar is the wood of choice for sweat lodges and can even purify indoor air. The medicinal uses for cedar are almost endless and many cultures still use today.

Cedar trees are dense and make excellent habitats for animals and birds. 

Artistic Uses

Because of the cultural significance of cedar trees in Eastern Europe and ancient civilizations, we can find references to cedars all throughout artwork and literature. As seen above, The Illiad even mentions the uses of cedar trees.

Lebanon considers the Lebanese a national symbol. They are plentiful and only grow in Lebanon. The tree grows to a stately appearance and makes an excellent symbol.

Residential/Commercial Uses

Cedar wood is durable and aromatic. The lumber holds the aroma for years after being cut. Overall, the best use for cedar wood is furniture because it repels moths and bugs. Cedar wood has a beautiful coloring and we use it in different aspects of construction. We use cedar wood in construction, decking, facing, and furniture.

In ancient times, builders used cedar in many of the same applications but also used to build weapons and ships. It is durable and high-quality. However, it is more prone to cracking than other species of wood. 

Wrap Up

While there are many cedars growing in the United States, they are not “true” cedar trees in the Cedrus genus. “True” cedars grow only in the Himalayan and Mediterranean areas. There are only four species of cedars. All four grow in distinct areas, and scientists named most for where they grow. Many cultures hold religious ceremonies to honor the Himalayan and Lebanese cedars. However, growing a cedar tree is simple, they thrive in areas with higher altitudes (at least 4000 feet).

Cedars are fast-growing and large trees. In fact, three of the four cedar species grow to almost 150 feet in height. They also spread to cover a lot of space. Overall, they are easy to identify in their homelands, but they are difficult to distinguish from fir trees. It took thousands of years and scientists to look on a molecular level to truly see the differences and make the Cedrus genus its own entity. 

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