Plant of the Week – Cedrus libani

This week’s plant profile is about one of my favourite trees, the Cedar of Lebanon. It was the first tree I became fascinated with after seeing them on a nature programme when I was ten or younger. At Ashridge I’m surrounded by them and am re-discovering my love and awe for these beautiful, majestic beings once more. I hope you enjoy the read ๐Ÿ™‚

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Genus: Cedrus

Species: libani

Family: Pinaceae

Common name: Cedar of Lebanon.

Translation: Cedrus is the ancient Greek name for cedar, libani translates as โ€œof Mount Lebanonโ€ relating to where the tree comes from.

Type of plant: Evergreen tree.

Origin: Asia, including Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.

Technical details

The ideal growing conditions for Cedrus libani is in full sun, in an exposed or sheltered position with well-drained soil.

Soil: Cedrus libani thrives in most soil types and pHs, including: acid, alkaline or neutral: and chalk, clay, sand or loam.

Resilience: Very hardy.

Propagation: Propagation is easiest by seed or semi-hardwood cuttings.

Cultivation: Cedrus libani is one of Britain’s most recognisable and oldest specimen trees, known as one of the greatest ornamental trees and as such is iconic to the British landscape we know today. It grows well anywhere with well-drained soil, so long as it has plenty of room to reach its full potential, which can be up to 130 feet high.

Pest and disease problems: Cedrus libani is generally pest and disease free but can be susceptible to honey fungus and aphids.

Interesting Facts

1. The name conifer comes from Latin and means โ€œcone bearingโ€. All conifers bear their male and female reproductive organs in separate cones (strobili) rather than in flowers. Male cones produce pollen grains which are transported to the female cones by wind and the seeds subsequently develop within the female cones. The foliage of conifers is either needle-like (like Cedrus libani) or scale-like (like Cupressus and Chamaecyparis). The conifers belong to the group of seed plants known as the gymnosperms, which literally means โ€˜naked seedโ€™. This is the main characteristic which differentiates them from the more advanced flowering plants (angiosperms) which bear their seeds encased in an ovary that becomes the fruit. Other gymnosperms include ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and cycads.

cedrus_libani cone

2. Cedrus libani was introduced to Britain in the 1600s, however popularity of the tree took off in the early 19th century, thanks to the efforts of an 18th century landscape gardener โ€“ ‘Capability’ Brown. He designed more than 170 parks and gardens in England, planting cedars in many of them, including the gardens at Ashridge.

3. The most prominent landscaping feature in London’s historic Highgate Cemetery is its “Circle of Lebanon”, where a Cedrus libani stands in the centre of a circular trench cut into the ground and lined with mausoleums.

4. The fame of Cedrus libani has been helped by the Bible, in which it is mentioned more than any other tree โ€“ its wood is thought to have been used to build King Soloman’s temple.

5. The Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) and the Deodar (Cedrus deodara) are two close relatives of Cedrus libani, all are in the pine family (Pinaceae). A work colleague told me a way of telling the three species apart by looking at the shape of the trees โ€“ atlantica branches ascend, deodara branches descend and libani branches are level. Cool or what?!

6. Cedrus libani is the national emblem of Lebanon and is displayed on the Lebanese flag.

lebanese flag

7. Young Cedrus libani trees are slender and conical shaped, developing their distinctive level branches as they mature.

8. The strong, durable wood of Cedrus libani is a popular building material, it is also a favourite of furniture makers because of its sweet smell.

9. The resin of Cedrus libani was used by the Ancient Egyptians to embalm the dead, while sawdust of the tree is said to have been found in the Pharaoh’s tombs.

10. Cedrus libani has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM), meaning it is a plant of outstanding excellence.

Resources

Plant Names Simplified (Johnson & Smith)

RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

A Concise Guide to Trees (Jenny Linford)

Collins Tree Guide

The Hillier Manuel of Trees and Shrubs

Kew’s A-Z guide of Plants and Fungi (website)

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11 Comments

  1. avian101

    Excellent Becky! I’ve seen the Cedar of Lebanon many times in different Countries, the wood is very valued to make furniture in places where termites or wood eating bugs can be found. Keeping small pieces of this wood in your closet keeps your clothes smelling fresh!
    Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thank you HJ, I’m glad you love this tree as much as I do! I need to find a piece to keep in my wardrobe ๐Ÿ˜€ x

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  2. Beautiful tree Becky, and such interesting info too. I learn through your posts. ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Its also just lovely to see a tree in the sunshine with a hope of things to come. Hard to imagine with this horrible weather here today!

    Love xx

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    • I took that photo when I first arrived at Ashridge, at the end of August – sometimes a little sunshine is all that’s needed! Thank you Christine, very glad you learnt something in this post ๐Ÿ™‚ hugs xxx

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  3. This reminds me of a Monterey Cypress, At least in the picture. Do you know if they are related?

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    • The Monterey Cypress is a conifer but that is the only thing they have in common! Cedars are in the Pinaceae family and cypresses are in the Cupressaceae family so aren’t related. They do look similar though! Thanks for your comment ๐Ÿ™‚ x

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  4. Fascinating facts and great photos Becky:-)

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  5. Beautiful tree! I love stumbling across blogs written with passion and finding out a little more about the nature that surrounds us

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    • Thank you! I’m glad you stumbled across my blog and enjoyed what you found. Thanks again for your comment ๐Ÿ˜€ x

      Like

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