Cedrus libani is a mountainous species of cedar tree that is native to the Mediterranean regions of the Middle East.
Evergreen and coniferous, the Cedar of Lebanon can grow up to 40 metres in height with its large trunk nearly three metres wide; the characteristic level branches of this tree are unmistakable and the needle-like leaves that cluster in groups of around 30 are a bluey-green colour, with cones being produced every second year.
Lebanon itself has her “cedrus libani” occurring mostly at an altitude of between one and two thousand metres in both pure and mixed forests. Sadly, deforestation and desertification have been particularly severe in recent times. However, extensive reforestation has been carried out; thus, over 50 million young cedars are now being planted annually in Turkey!
Historically, the timber from the Lebanese cedar was used by the Phoenicians for construction: They built ships, designed houses and furnished palaces. Also, the resin from the coarse bark of the tree has many qualities and dates back to mummification in ancient Egypt.
More recently, the cedar of Lebanon has been widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, often being used as a focal point. The most prominent landscaping feature in Highgate Cemetery near the tomb of Karl Marx, for example, is the “Circle of Lebanon.”
The Addington Palace Cedar of Lebanon is officially recognised as one of London’s Great Trees and stood strong outside the residence of six successive archbishops of Canterbury, which is fitting really as the species is referenced many times in the Bible!
From the mid-eighteenth century onward, Lebanese cedars became a fashionable accessory on many London estates. Majestic as it is, the sheer enormity of Addington’s most marvellous piece of horticulture means there are ropes keeping people out for their own protection; snow has unfortunately damaged some branches and made areas unsafe.
Currently on the list of threatened endangered species, in Lebanon herself there are now just a few cedar forests left because many have been wiped out either by forest fires or for timber.
Unfortunately, there is also a difficulty with propagation because the cedar of Lebanon needs female cone seeds to initiate germination, and producing these cones can take up to 30 years; not to mention that cuttings are almost impossible to root with this species giving horticulturalist experts a real dilemma.
Lebanon’s national emblem and very own cedar tree is displayed on their flag, as well as being the logo on the aircraft of Middle East Airlines; cedar truly is something for Lebanon to be proud of.