905 Cedrus libaniCommon Names: cedar of Lebanon, cedar-of-Lebanon Family: Pinaceae (pine Family)
A mature cedar of Lebanon is a stately and picturesque evergreen conifer. It has a massive (sometimes forked) trunk, very wide-spreading horizontal branches (the lower ones often kissing the ground), and a crown of flat tiers, like table tops. Although it can get more than 100 ft (30 m) tall with an equal spread from its strong limbs, most specimens in cultivation can be expected to top out around 50-70 (15-21 m). In youth the tree is conical and symmetrical. The leaves, about an inch long, are stiff and 4-angled, and arranged in dense clusters on short shoots. The cones are barrel shaped, 3-5 in (7.6-12.7 cm) long and held erect, a characteristic of the true cedars (genus Cedrus).
The botanical variety stenocoma is more columnar and upright than the typical variety and much more cold hardy, too. The cedars look a little like larches (Larix), but larches have deciduous needles. Cedar of Lebanon is very similar to (and very closely related to) Atlas cedar (C. atlantica), and some authorities consider them to be just subspecies in the same species. Michael Dirr, the famous authority on landscape trees from the University of Georgia, says Atlas cedar has a taller, less flattened crown, less densely arranged branchlets, and smaller cones (2-3 in or 5-8 cm long) than cedar of Lebanon.
'Aurea' is slow growing and conical with needles having a yellowish undertone. 'Pendula' is a weeping clone that can be grafted high on the rootstock to create an "umbrella tree." 'Sargentii' is a dwarf that grows in a bushy mound just 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) high.
Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani, is named for the famous forests that grow in Lebanon. The species also occurs in Turkey and Syria. Var. stenocoma is native to southern Turkey.
CultureThe cedars grow well in acidic sands and in thin soils over limestone; pH doesn't matter. Good drainage is essential, however. Cedar of Lebanon has a tendency to produce multiple leaders and the grower may wish to prune out the weaker shoots; do this in autumn. These are slow growing trees. Light: Young trees can grow in partial shade but will eventually need full sun to realize their potential. Moisture: Cedar of Lebanon occurs naturally where there is very little summer rainfall, and is quite tolerant of drought. It can thrive where annual precipitation is no more than 15 in (38 cm), but it also does well where 80 in (203 cm) of annual precipitation is the norm. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. Many references give Zone 7 as the minimum hardiness zone for cedar of Lebanon, but var. stenocoma is hardy in the warmer parts of zone 5. Cedar of Lebanon, and especially var. stenocoma, is the hardiest of the true cedars. Propagation: Propagate cedar of Lebanon from seed, sown as soon as it ripens. Named cultivars must be grafted. Cedar of Lebanon is difficult to propagate from cuttings.
The cedars make majestic specimen trees for parks, estates and larger lawns. A mature cedar of Lebanon, especially one with multiple leaders, will be as wide as it is tall, and a truly picturesque specimen.
The taxonomy of the genus Cedrus is debated by the botanists. Depending on who you believe, you can recognize one, two or four species. The splitters recognize Cyprus cedar (Cedrus brevifolia), cedar of Lebanon, deodar cedar (C. deodar), and Atlas cedarC. atlantica).
There are no fewer than 18 distinct references to cedar of Lebanon in the Bible; King Solomon's Temple was built from cedar of Lebanon timbers. Even today the stands of cedars in Lebanon, although they have been much reduced by over harvesting, are held in special esteem by the Arabs.
Steve Christman 01/21/01; updated 1/18/03