A tree 80 to 120 ft high and 4 to 8 ft in diameter of trunk, pyramidal when young, ultimately flat and spreading at the top, and developing huge horizontal branches; young shoots usually furnished with a minute down. Leaves 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long, needle-like, but thickest towards the end. Cones 3 to 5 in. long, 2 to 21⁄2 in. wide, barrel-shaped.
Native of the Near East, best known from its historic stands in the Lebanon, but attaining its maximum development in the Cilician Taurus, Turkey, where it forms forests at 4,000 to 7,000 ft; further west it occurs in scattered stands almost as far as the Aegean. Introduced in the seventeenth century, probably between 1670 and 1680, perhaps earlier. Irrespective of its sacred and historical associations, no tree ever introduced to our islands has added more to the charm of gardens than the cedar of Lebanon. Its thick, stately trunk and noble crown of wide-spreading, horizontal branches give to it an air of distinction no other tree at present can rival, although in course of time, perhaps, the Atlas cedar assumes a similar form. The largest specimen on Mount Lebanon is over 40 ft in girth of trunk.
As noted in previous editions, the finest tree recorded by Elwes and Henry grew at Pains Hill near Cobham and measured 115 to 120 ft high with a girth of 261⁄2 ft. This tree no longer exists, but others of good size remain there. The following list of recent measurements includes trees notable in height, girth, or length of bole and some others of which the planting date is known: Petworth, Sussex, 132 × 171⁄2 ft (1961); Fort Belvedere, Windsor. pl. 1760, 110 × 181⁄2 ft (1964); Sherborne Castle, Dorset, 120 × 193⁄4 ft (1963); Highclere, Hants, 122 × 25 ft (1955); Bowood, Wilts., 129 × 181⁄2 ft (1957); Cobham Hall, Kent, 98 × 201⁄2 ft (1965); Claremont, Esher, Surrey, 95 × 201⁄4 ft (1965); Peper Harrow, Surrey, pl. 1735, 90 × 241⁄2 ft (1961); The Whittern, Heref., pl. 1810, 80 × 223⁄4 ft (1963); Dogmersfield Park, Hants, 126 × 161⁄2 ft (1961); Wilton House, Wilts., 93 × 25 and 100 × 231⁄2 ft (1961); Bayfordbury, Herts., pl. 1765, 90 × 231⁄2 ft (1962); Powderham Castle, Devon, 92 × 211⁄4 ft (1963); Whitfield House, Heref., 85 × 221⁄4 ft (1963); Blenheim Palace, Oxon., 85 × 27 ft and 115 × 231⁄4 ft (1965).
As will be seen from the above list, the cedar of Lebanon thrives best in the warmer parts of the country; it likes a deep, loamy soil. From London, where the climate suits it admirably, it is excluded by atmospheric pollution, to which it is very sensitive.
f. argentea (Carr.) Beissn. – Leaves of a very glaucous hue. Reported to be found wild in the Cilician stands.
Both in the Atlas and Lebanon cedars one occasionally sees forms that lose all or most of their leaves in winter. They are usually stiff in habit, short-leaved and slow-growing. It is questionable whether these characters are not merely due to inferior vigour.
var. brevifolia Hook. f. C. brevifolia (Hook, f.) Henry Cyprus Cedar. – This differs from the Lebanon cedar in the shorter leaves (1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long), and in the smaller cylindrical cones; first described in 1879; introduced to Kew two years later. The trees on the mountains of Cyprus average about 40 ft in height. In cultivation the following sizes have been recorded: National Pinetum, Bedgebury, pl. 1926, 44 × 23⁄4 ft (1967); Borde Hill, Sussex, 52 × 3 ft (1958); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 47 × 21⁄2 and 44 × 33⁄4 ft (1964); Bicton, Devon, 43 × 33⁄4 ft (1964); Windsor Great Park, 39 × 13⁄4 ft (1964). For further information on the Cyprus cedar see the article by J. E. Garfitt in Quarterly Journal of Forestry, Vol. 60, July 1966.
The Turkish representatives of C. libani are said to be of more columnar habit than those found in the Lebanon, and trees raised from seed collected in the Cilician Taurus in 1903 have proved hardier at the Arnold Arboretum than the true cedar of Lebanon. Schwarz, whose views on the Mediterranean cedars are mentioned in the introductory note, treats the Turkish cedar as a subspecies, but Coode and Cullen remark that the botanical characters he used to distinguish this from subsp. libani are not well correlated and consider that the two taxa can hardly be maintained as distinct (Flora of Turkey, Vol. 1, pp. 71-2, 1965). See also the note and photographs by P. H. Davis in Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 74, p. 112, and figs. 39 and 40.