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 🙂
Common name: Cedar of Lebanon.
Translation: Cedrus is the ancient Greek name for cedar, libani translates as “of Mount Lebanon” relating to where the tree comes from.
Type of plant: Evergreen tree.
Origin: Asia, including Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.
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.
1. The name conifer comes from Latin and means “cone bearing”. 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 ‘naked seed’. 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.
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 – ‘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 – 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 – 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.
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.
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)