Characteristics of Lebanon Cedar Tree (Cedrus libani) in the Wild

Cedrus libani
Cedar of Lebanon or Lebanese Cedar (Cedrus libani) is a species of tree in the Pine family, native to the mountains of the East Mediterranean. These are large conifers that have great religious and historical significance in Middle Eastern culture and are referenced many times in the literature of ancient civilizations.

There are two known varieties, Cedrus libani var. libani and Cedrus libani var. brevifolia. Cedrus libani var. libani grows naturally in Lebanon, western Syria, central and southern Turkey. Cedrus libani var. brevifolia grows naturally in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus.

CEDAR OF LEBANON IN RELIGION

The Lebanese cedar tree is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew priest was instructed by Moses to use Lebanese cedar bark in the treatment of leprosy.

Solomon also purchased cedar wood to build the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah used the Lebanese cedar tree as a metaphor for the pride of the world, with the tree explicitly mentioned in Psalm 92:12 as a symbol of the righteous.

CEDAR OF LEBANON IN THE STORY
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest literary works, the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu travel to the legendary Cedar Forest to kill its keepers and chop down its trees. While the early versions of the story place forests in Iran, later Babylonian accounts of the story place the Cedar Forest in Lebanon.

 

CEDAR OF LEBANON IN REALITY

The Cedar of Lebanon is the national emblem of Lebanon and is featured on the Lebanese flag and coat of arms of Lebanon. It is also the logo of Middle East Airlines, which is Lebanon’s national airline. This tree is also the main symbol of Lebanon’s 2005 “Cedar Revolution”, the 2019-2020 Lebanon protests, also known as Thawra (meaning revolution in Arabic) along with many Lebanese political parties and movements, such as the Lebanese Forces. Finally, Lebanon is sometimes metonymy referred to as the Land of the Cedars.

Arkansas, a U.S. state, has a Champion Tree program that records extraordinary tree specimens. One of the collections is a Lebanese cedar tree planted in Hot Springs National Park and is thought to be over 100 years old.

 
Today the Lebanese cedar tree is widely cultivated and grown as an bonsai and ornamental tree in parks and gardens.

Cedar of Lebanon has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2017.

 

Characteristics of Cedar of Lebanon Leaf

Cedrus libani Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/mercantour

The new shoots are pale brown when they turn gray, grooved, and scaly. Its old leaves are like needles, arranged in a spiral and concentrated at the proximal end of long shoots, and in groups of 15-35 on short shoots, 5-35 mm long, and 1-1.5 mm wide, their color varies from light green to glaucous green.

 

Characteristics of Cedar of Lebanon Fruit

Cedrus libani Fruit
Source: flickr.com/naturgucker.de

Male cones appear at the tips of shoots, solitary and erect about 4-5 cm long and pale green when young and turn pale brown when ripe.

Female cones are resinous, sessile, and pale green, taking 17-18 months after pollination to mature. Ripe female cones are 8-12 cm long and 3-6 cm wide, scaly, ovate, and brownish-gray in color. The seeds are ovate, 10-14 mm long and 4-6 mm wide, and attached to light brown wedge-shaped wings.

Cedar of Lebanon can only produce cones when it is over 40 years old and continues to produce for hundreds of years.

 

Characteristics of Cedar of Lebanon Tree

Cedrus libani Tree
Source: flickr.com/Maxwell Hamilton

The Cedar of Lebanon can grow to a height of 40 meters, with a trunk diameter of up to 2.5 meters. Old trees usually have several large, erect branches. The bark is rough and scaly, dark gray to blackish brown, and penetrates deep horizontal gaps that peel into small pieces.

The branches of the first tier grow on young trees, they will become large and take a horizontal position, then spread widely. The second-order branches are dense and grow in a horizontal position. The crown of a tree is cone-shaped when young, becomes broad as it ages. Trees that grow in the wild usually retain their pyramid shape until they are old.

The IUCN has classified the Lebanese cedar species into Vulnerable (VU) status.

 
The American University of Beirut has developed a DNA-based identification method to ensure that reforestation efforts in Lebanon are from the native Lebanese cedar and not any other type. This was done because of the difficulty in distinguishing the seeds of Cedrus libani, Cedrus atlantica, and Cedrus deodara, so the DNA identification process was needed to ensure the original species.

 
BENEFITS OF CEDAR OF LEBANON
Lebanese cedar is valued for its fine-grained characteristics, attractive yellow color, and aroma. The wood is also very durable and immune to insect damage. Lebanese cedar wood is commonly used for making furniture, construction, and handicrafts.

Cedar resin (cedria) and cedar (cedrum) essential oil are valuable extracts from the wood and cones of the cedar tree.
 
HOW TO CULTIVATE CEDAR OF LEBANON
Before planting Lebanese cedar seeds, the seeds need to be cold stratified at a temperature between 3-5 °C for two to four weeks. After the seeds are sown, it is advisable to store them at a temperature of about 20 °C and be exposed to the wind and a little sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not flooded. The seeds will germinate relatively slowly, from 1 month to 1 year. The growth of sprouts is between 3-5 cm in the first year and will accelerate in the following years.

 

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