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Cedrus libani

Cedrus libani
Grove, with typical branching
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Cedrus
Species: C. libani
Binomial name
Cedrus libani

Cedrus libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region.[1][2][3]

Lebanon cedar in the Forest of the Cedars of God. Person shows scale.

There are two distinct types of Cedrus libani that are considered to be different subspecies or varieties:

  • Lebanon cedar or cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani subsp. libani or var. libani) - grows in Lebanon, Israel, northwest Jordan, western Syria, and south central Turkey.
  • Turkish cedar or Taurus cedar (Cedrus libani subsp. stenocoma or var. stenocoma) - grows in southwest Turkey.


  • Description 1
  • Taxonomy 2
  • Ecology 3
  • History, symbolism and uses 4
    • National and regional significance 4.1
    • Horticultural use 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6


Cedrus libani foliage

Cedrus libani is an evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 40 m (130 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) in diameter. The crown is conic when young, becoming broadly tabular with age with fairly level branches.

The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots and short shoots. The leaves are needle-like, spaced out on the long shoots, and in clusters of 15-45 on the short shoots; they are 5–30 mm (14–1 316 in) in length, quadrangular in cross-section, and vary from green to glaucous blue-green with stomatal bands on all four sides. The seed cones are produced often every second year, and mature in 12 months from pollination; mature cones in late autumn are 8–12 cm (3–4 34 in) long and 4–6 cm (1 12–2 38 in) wide.


Cedrus libani was first classified by the French botanist Achille Richard. There are two distinct types that are considered either as subspecies or varieties:

  • Cedrus libani var. libani (Lebanon cedar)
  • Cedrus libani var. stenocoma (Turkish cedar)

Some botanists also classify the Cyprus cedar (Cedrus brevifolia)[4] and Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica)[5][6] as subspecies of C. libani. However, a majority of the modern sources[1][7][8][9][10][11][12] consider them distinct species.


In Syria, Lebanon and Turkey it occurs most abundantly at altitudes of 600–2,000 m (2,000–6,600 ft), where it forms pure forests or mixed forests with Cilician fir (Abies cilicica), European black pine (Pinus nigra), and several juniper (Juniperus) species. In Cyprus, Cedrus brevifolia occurs at 1,000–1,525 m (3,281–5,003 ft) (reaching the summit of Mount Paphos). In the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, Cedrus atlantica occurs at 1,370–2,200 m (4,490–7,220 ft) in pure forests or mixed with Abies species and Juniperus thurifera.[1]

History, symbolism and uses

Cedar of Lebanon cone showing flecks of resin
Male cone of cedar of Lebanon

The cedar of Lebanon was important to various ancient civilizations. The trees were used by the Phoenicians for building commercial and military ships, as well as houses, palaces, and temples. The ancient Egyptians used its resin in mummification, and its sawdust has been found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh designates the cedar groves of Lebanon as the dwelling of the gods to which Gilgamesh, the hero, ventured.

In Judaist mythology, Hebrew priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon cedar in the cleansing ceremony following the conclusion of a period of leprosy.[13] The Hebrew prophet Isaiah used the Lebanon cedar as a metaphor for the pride of the world.[14] According to the Talmud, Jews once burned Lebanese cedar wood on the Mount of Olives to celebrate the new year. Foreign rulers from both near and far would order the wood for religious and civil construction projects, the most famous of which are King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and David's and Solomon's palaces. Because of its significance the word cedar is mentioned 75 times (cedar 51 times, cedars 24 times) in the Bible, and played a pivotal role in the cementing of the Phoenician-Hebrew relationship. Beyond that, it was also used by Romans, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians.

Over the centuries, extensive deforestation has occurred, with only small remnants of the original forests surviving. Deforestation has been particularly severe in Lebanon and on Cyprus; on Cyprus, only small trees up to 25 m (82 ft) tall survive, though Pliny the Elder recorded cedars 40 m (130 ft) tall there.[15] Extensive reforestation of cedar is carried out in the Mediterranean region, particularly Turkey, where over 50 million young cedars are being planted annually.[16] The Lebanese populations are also now expanding through a combination of replanting and protection of natural regeneration from browsing by goats, hunting, forest fires, and woodworms.[17]

Historically, there were various attempts at conserving the Lebanon cedars. The first was made by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who issued a decree protecting parts of the cedars of Lebanon in AD 118. In the Middle Ages, the Mamluk caliphs also made an attempt at conserving the cedars and regulating their use, followed by the Maronite Patriarch Yusuf Hbaych, who placed them under his protection in 1832. In 1876, Queen Victoria financed a wall to protect the Cedars of God (near Bsharri) from the ravages of goat herding.

National and regional significance

The Lebanese flag, with the Lebanon cedar in the middle

The Lebanon cedar is the national emblem of Lebanon, and is displayed on the Lebanese flag and coat of arms. It is also the logo of Middle East Airlines (MEA), which is Lebanon's national carrier. Beyond that, it is also the main symbol of Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution", along with many Lebanese political parties and movements, such as the Kataeb (Phalange), the Lebanese Forces, the National Liberal Party, and the Future Movement.[18] Finally, Lebanon is sometimes metonymically referred to as the Land of the Cedars.[19][20]

As a result of long exploitation, few old trees remain in Lebanon, but there is now an active program to conserve and regenerate the forests. The Lebanese approach has emphasized natural regeneration rather than planting, and this by creating the right conditions. The Lebanese state has created several cedar reserves or nature reserves that contain cedars, including the Chouf Cedar Reserves, the Jaj Cedar Reserve, the Tannourine Reserve, the Ammouaa and Karm Shbat Reserves in the Akkar district, forest Horsh Ehden near the village of Ehden and the Forest of the Cedars of God near Bsharri.[21][22][23] Extensive replanting is taking place in Turkey, where approximately 300 square kilometres (74,000 acres) of cedar are planted annually.[17]

Horticultural use

The Lebanon cedar is widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, often being planted in landscape avenues, and as focal point trees in large landscapes. The most prominent landscaping feature in London's historic Highgate Cemetery is its "Circle of Lebanon", where a Lebanon cedar stands in the centre of a circular trench cut into the ground and lined with mausoleums.[24] Alarmingly, very mature specimens drop branches - perhaps weighing two or three tons - without warning and not necessarily in bad weather. As a result, you may see one where risk to life is more likely, i.e. overhanging pavements or road junctions with restraining 'harnesses' on branches run back up to the central trunk.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[25]

See also

Lebanon cedar forest in Mesopotamian mythology
old growth Cedrus libani forest and World Heritage Site


  1. ^ a b c Farjon, A. (1990). Pinaceae. Drawings and Descriptions of the Genera. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3-87429-298-3.
  2. ^ Greuter, W., Burdet, H. M., & Long, G. (eds.), (1984). Med-Checklist – A critical inventory of vascular plants of the circum-mediterranean countries. Cedrus libani
  3. ^ Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Cedrus libani. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  4. ^ GRIN Taxonomy for Plants Cedrus.
  5. ^ Güner, A., Özhatay, N., Ekim, T., & Başer, K. H. C. (ed.). 2000. Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands 11 (Supplement 2): 5–6. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1409-5
  6. ^ Eckenwalder, J. E. (2009). Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-974-3.
  7. ^ Gymnosperm database Cedrus.
  8. ^ NCBI Taxonomy Browser Cedrus.
  9. ^ Flora of China vol. 4
  10. ^ Qiao, C.-Y., Jin-Hua Ran, Yan Li and Xiao-Quan Wang (2007): Phylogeny and Biogeography of Cedrus (Pinaceae) Inferred from Sequences of Seven Paternal Chloroplast and Maternal Mitochondrial DNA Regions. Annals of Botany 100(3):573-580. Available online
  11. ^ Farjon, A. (2008). A Natural History of Conifers. Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-869-0.
  12. ^ Christou, K. A. (1991). The genetic and taxonomic status of Cyprus Cedar, Cedrus brevifolia (Hook.) Henry. Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Greece.
  13. ^ Leviticus 14:1-4
  14. ^ Isaiah 2:13
  15. ^ Willan, R. G. N. (1990). The Cyprus Cedar. Int. Dendrol. Soc. Yearbk. 1990: 115-118.
  16. ^ Anon. History of Turkish Forestry. Turkish Ministry of Forestry.
  17. ^ a b Khuri, S., & Talhouk, S. N. (1999). Cedar of Lebanon. Pages 108-111 in Farjon, A., & Page, C. N. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan: Conifers. IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group. ISBN 2-8317-0465-0.
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ Budge, E.A.W. (2010). The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians. HardPress. p. 261. 
  20. ^ Cromer, G. (2004). A war of words: political violence and public debate in Israel. Cass series on political violence. Frank Cass.  
  21. ^ Talhouk, S. N. & Zurayk, S. 2003. Conifer conservation in Lebanon. Acta Hort. 615: 411-414.
  22. ^ Semaan, M. & Haber, R. 2003. In situ conservation on Cedrus libani in Lebanon. Acta Hort. 615: 415-417.
  23. ^ Cedars of Lebanon Nature Reserve
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Cedrus libani"RHS Plant Selector - . Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
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