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Plants from the Ground Up

Cedrus libani – Cedar Of Lebanon

Cedrus libani is a stunning evergreen coniferous tree from the Mediterranean which has been used extensively throughout human history. I love a plant with history and Cedrus libani or the ‘Cedar of Lebanon’ has epic stories to tell! The wood of Cedrus libani is extremely rot resistant and aromatic, these qualities make it very useful for ship building, lumber and medicine. Native to the Mediterranean region, these Cedars were being imported into Egypt by king Sneferu for ship building in 2600 BC. The Egyptians did not stop at just ship building, the resin of the Cedar of Lebanon was even used as one of the ingredients for mummification. Cedar of Lebanon is so historically important, it is mentioned in the Bible 71 times. The prophet Moses directed Hebrew priests to use Cedar of Lebanon as a treatment for Leprosy. The Israelites used vast amounts of the wood of Cedrus libani for construction during the Iron age of Israel (586-1200 BC). Cedrus libani was also used extensively by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. Although already quite depleted, these trees continued to be logged by the Roman Empire in its quest for building ships.
Cedrus Libani

The first efforts at conservation occurred under the Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138 AD), he created an Imperial forest where the trees were protected. The Cedars, however, continued to be depleted at an alarming rate all the way into the 20th century. Today in Cypress the largest remaining cedars are 82 feet tall although Pliney the Elder recorded specimens of 130 feet there. One of the remaining ancient stands on Mt. Lebanon called the ‘Cedars of God’ became a conservation concern and a stone wall was built around the stand to protect them from grazing by goats (the project was funded by Queen Victoria). Cedar of Lebanon is listed as a vulnerable tree and the ‘Cedars of God’ are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Extensive reforestation efforts are being undertaken in Jordan, Lebanon and most notably Turkey, which is replanting these Cedars at a remarkable rate of 50 million annually.

Cedrus libani

Cedar of Lebanon start out as conical evergreen trees before becoming flat topped with age. Although they usually reach 50-60 feet in cultivation they have been recorded to grow as high  as 130 feet. Cedar of Lebanon trees have single dark-green four-sided needles. They are monoecious meaning they have male and female trees, the sexes can be distinguished by their cones; the male cones are yellow while the females are purple. The trees need to be 20-40 years old to be able to reproduce and the seeds have a relatively low germination rate. Cedrus libani is found natively in very dry conditions, but they have shown to be quite adaptable. They are suitable for sandy or loamy to clay soils, they prefer to have good drainage and although they prefer acid soils they are adaptable to neutral and even alkaline sites. Cedar of Lebanon require full sun and cannot thrive in shade and they are not able to survive in areas with high levels of air pollution. They are hardy to USDA winter hardiness zone5.

 

For more photos and information, see Cedrus libani – Cedar Of Lebanon at the Forestfarm Store.

5 Comments

  1. These impressive trees have come part of US history also. On the East Coast they are often found on historic properties. An amazing Cedar of Lebanon is located on the South Lawn of the White House.

  2. How can they be distinguished from Deodar Cedars?

    • Thanks so much for your question Wendy!

      Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodora)
      Has needles which are 1 to 2 inches long and can be yellow-green to blue-green in color. The needles are borne in dense clusters on large, woody pegs, except near the tips of branches, where they’re borne individually. Branch tips and the leader droop noticeably, similar to western hemlock. Deodar cedar is native to the Himalayan Mountains of northern India.

      Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)
      These trees exhibit a stiff branching upright habit and have blue-green needles that are only about 1″ long. Cedar of Lebanon has slightly larger cones (3-4″ long). This tree is native to the Middle East.

  3. Can this be grown in Zone 5? On another page it says hardy only to Zone 7

    • Thank you so much for your note. There are mature specimens known to be growing in Zone 5 locations. On our website we list it as a Zone 6 to be very safe. In Zone 5 it may be more difficult for this tree to get established and it is possible that a severe winter could kill a young tree before it really got going. Zone 5b may be a bit safer bet.

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