Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cedrus libani, commonly known as the Lebanon Cedar or Cedar of Lebanon, is a coniferous tree native to the mountains of Lebanon, western Syria and south central Turkey; varieties of it (some treated as separate species by some authors) occur in southwest Turkey, Cyprus, and the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa:
- Cedrus libani var. libani (Lebanon Cedar): Lebanon, western Syria and south central Turkey
- Cedrus libani var. stenocoma (Turkish Cedar): southwest Turkey
- Cedrus libani var. brevifolia (Cyprus Cedar): Cyprus
- Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Atlas Cedar): Atlas Mountains
In Lebanon and Turkey it is most abundant at altitudes of 1,000-2,000 m, where it forms pure forests or mixed forests with Cilicican Fir (Abies cilicica), European Black Pine (Pinus nigra), and several juniper (Juniperus) species. In Cyprus, it occurs at 1,000-1,525 m (reaching the summit of Mount Paphos), and in the Atlas Mountains at 1,300-2,200 m, in pure forests or mixed with Algerian Fir , junipers, oaks and maples.
The tree is an evergreen in the family Pinaceae, with a height of up to 40 m, and a conic (when young) to broadly tabular shape. The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots and short shoots. The leaves are needle-like, spaced out on the long shoots, and in clusters of 15-45 on the short shoots; they are 5-30 mm in length, quadrangular in cross-section, and vary from green to glaucous blue-green with stomatal bands on all four sides. The cones are produced often every second year, and mature in 12 months from pollination; mature cones in October are 8-11 cm long and 4-6 cm wide, resinous, and break up to release the winged seeds through the winter. The seeds are 15 mm long, 6 mm broad, with a triangular wing 20-25 mm long.
Several decades in the Lebanon Cedar's growth must pass before fertilization, as flowering does not occur until the tree is a minimum of 25 years old, and some trees may require 3 decades of growth before flowering (). Additionally, as a result of long exploitation, very few old trees now remain in Lebanon, but there is now an active programme to conserve and regenerate the forests. Extensive replanting is also taking place in Turkey, where about 30,000 ha (300 km²) of cedar are planted annually.
History and symbolism
The importance of the Cedar of Lebanon to the various civilizations is conveyed through its uses. The trees were used in ancient times by the Phoenicians to build their trade and military ships, as well as their houses and temples. The Egyptians used its resin for mummification, and its sawdust was found in the pharaoh's tombs. They also used to burn cedar in their ceremonies. Judaic priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon Cedar in circumcision and treatment of leprosy. According to the Talmud, Jews used to burn Lebanese cedarwood on the Mount of Olives to announce the beginning of the new year. Kings of neighboring and distant countries asked for this wood to build their religious and civil constructs; the most famous of which are King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem and David's and Solomon's Palaces. In addition it was used by Romans, Greeks, Assyrians and Babylonians.
The Lebanon Cedar is mentioned 75 times in the Bible. Some of these statements are: "The cedar in the heaven of God is unmatched by cypress and unresembling in its branches...", "the trees of God resemble the Cedars of Lebanon which he planted", "the righteous flourish like the palm tree and grows like the cedar in Lebanon", "my love is white and red... bright as Lebanon and young as the cedars".
- Talhouk, S. N. & Zurayk, S. 2003. Conifer conservation in Lebanon. Acta Hort. 615: 411-414.
- Semaan, M. & Haber, R. 2003. In situ conservation on Cedrus libani in Lebanon. Acta Hort. 615: 415-417.
- Lebanon Cedar - Cedrus libani
- Arboretum de Villardebelle - photos of Cedrus libani in Turkey
- Arboretum de Villardebelle - photos of Cedrus libani cones (scroll to foot of page)
- Gymnosperm Database - Cedrus libani
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