Cedar of Lebanon

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Meet the majestic Cedar of Lebanon, a true highlander of the tree world, that stands between 1,300 and 3,000 meters in elevation and can grow to be 40-60 feet tall! Known for its resilience, this true cedar has been a builder of empires and a symbol of strength for many countries. It's not just a tree; it's a historical pillar that has sailed through ancient Egyptian myths, fortified sacred temples, and even snagged a starring role on Lebanon’s flag. If trees were celebrities, the Cedar of Lebanon would be the timeless icon everyone wants at their garden parties!
Taylor Barton, Amanda Robinson, Felix Fein
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
5.80 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.13 m

The bark of this tree is light brown with dark brown horizontal striations. There are eye-like knots that will later become branches.
Twigs & branches
The branches extend horizontally from the trunk. Twigs or shoots covered in needles extend off of the body and ends of thin branches.
The foliage is green, needle-like, and quadrangular in shape. New, bright green foliage emerges during spring.
Reproductive Structures
This species is monoecious, so both the male and female reproductive structures reside on the same plant. Male cones begin as small and grey-green but grow to become long and brown at maturity. Male cones release pollen that can be picked up by the air and carried to female cones for fertilization. Female cones are erect for ease during fertilization and change from green to grey to brown as they mature over the course of 12 months after fertilization occurs. On the female cones, two winged seeds mature on every scale, which are eventually released from the cone to be planted elsewhere.
Cedars of Lebanon produce barrel-shaped, upright, waxy cones. These cones can grow to be 8-12 cm long and can be either male or female. They are produced every other fall after the tree is about 25-30 years old. The cones eventually open up after fertilization to reveal winged seeds, two on every scale of the cone, that can be carried to alternative locations to grow into a tree.
  • Cedar of Lebanon in Spring
  • Cedar of Lebanon in Winter
Natural range of distribution: 
While the Cedar of Lebanon can be found in various locations throughout the Mediterranean, it is native to Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. It specifically grows in the mountains of these regions, around elevations of about 1,300-3,000 m, as climate change has forced the species to increase their altitude to account for warmer seasons. This species thrives in areas with dry, warm summers and cool, snowy winters and is the hardiest of the true cedars. They can withstand extreme cold and prolonged periods of drought. They also typically grow in areas with calciferous soils and annual precipitation rates of 540 to 1500 mm.
Origin, history, and uses: 

The Cedar of Lebanon has a very extensive history that dates back to ancient times. In the ancient world, this species was often cut down and used for the construction of temples, palaces, boats, and more. In ancient Egypt, the wood of the Cedar of Lebanon was used to build large ships and palace doors. 

The tree plays a large role in religon and mythology. It is highlighted in the Epic of Gilgamesh and is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament of the Bible. For example, in 1 Kings 5:6, the tree was used to build the First Temple of Soloman. The Bible also associates the species with strength and wealth. Furthermore, it is the subject of numerous Lebanese legends and often represents eternity and resilience. As a result, the species became the symbol of the country of Lebanon and became featured on their official flag after they gained independance in 1943. 

Interstingly, it is also the first recorded species to be the focus of conservation efforts. In 118 AD, Roman emporer Hadrian created an imperial forest by blocking off a section of woodland filled with Cedars of Lebanon. Along with physically protecting the trees with a boundary of stones, emporer Hadrian also made rules to protect the species from deforestation. 

This tree has many uses throughout the centuries. It was once used medicinally, as the pitch of the tree was used to treat toothache pain. Some also used cedar oil to make cough syrup and ointments. Additionally, the sawdust of the tree was used to ward off snakes for protection. Many also believe that resin from the tree played a role in the preservation of dead bodies in Egypt. In Lebanon where the tree is native, the wood is often used as insect repellant to this day. 

In the 17th century, the Cedar of Lebanon became a popular ornamental tree in Europe. It is still used for this purpose today all over the world and can be found in temperate-zone gardens. 

Centuries of deforestation, paired with climate change, have caused the prevalence of these trees to significantly reduce. They once covered thousands of square miles of land, but only exist now in small, scattered groups. In response to this decrease in the population, in 1876 Lebanon established the “Cedars of Gods” by blocking off a patch of cedars for preservation. In 1998, the “Cedars of Gods” was added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.  

The Cedar of Lebanon is an evergreen, coniferous tree, so it does not lose its needles or change colors with the seasons. However, their cones are produced and mature beginning in the fall of every other year. After fertilization, winged seeds in the female cones develop in time to be released from the tree in spring, leaving behind only the central candle of the female cone on the tree as summer begins.