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True Cedars (Cedrus)

  • Evergreen needles are borne primarily in dense clusters;current year needles are borne singly.
  • Clusters of needles arise from stout, woody pegs.
  • Fruits are large, barrel-shaped cones that sit on the tops of branches.


True cedars are native to the Middle and Far East--and are very different from the scale-leaved false cedars native to the Pacific Northwest. True cedars have evergreen needles borne in dense clusters on stout, woody pegs (similar to larches, except they don't fall off in the Fall). Their large, barrel-shaped cones stick up above their branches, and have thin scales that fall apart when mature (similar to true firs).

Three true cedars are commonly planted in the Pacific Northwest:

  • Deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara): the largest, most common, and easiest to recognize of the true cedars. Its needles are 1 to 2 inches long and are yellow-green to blue-green in color. Needles are borne in dense clusters on large, woody pegs, except near the tips of branches, where they're borne individually. Branch tips and the leader droop noticeably, similar to western hemlock. Deodar cedar is native to the Himalayan Mountains of northern India.

  • Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica): similar to Deodar cedar except that it has shorter needles (about 1" long) and slightly smaller cones (2-3" long). In addition, its needles have a blue-green color and a white bloom. Atlas cedar is named for the Atlas Mountains of northern Africa; also called Atlantic cedar.

  • Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani): nearly identical to Atlas cedar. Both exhibit a stiff branching habit and have blue-green needles about 1" long. Cedar of Lebanon has slightly larger cones (3-4" long). This tree is native to Asia Minor, and was reportedly used to build King Solomon's temple.

For more information on the true cedars commonly planted in the Pacific Northwest see "Trees to Know in Oregon".

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