35. Cedar of Lebanon

(Cedrus libani)

Family: Pinaceae

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Two trees stand prominently in front of the Art building: the purpleleaf beech and the lofty Cedar of Lebanon. While there are many different kinds of trees whose wood qualities caused them to be commonly named as cedars, the Lebanese is one of just a few true cedars that grow in the Pacific Northwest. It is in the genus Cedrus, Latinized from the ancient Greek kedros, and grows not only in Lebanon but in Turkey and adjacent countries.

Deodar and Atlas cedars are its close kindred. These illustrious trees are not easily distinguished because the three species are often similar looking. The Art building tree, however, is a classic libani; it shows perfectly the attributes of the Lebanese: flushing forth early in bright green spring needles in contrast to the dark green needles that have over-wintered; growing with tabular branches, bearing sharp needles longer than those of Atlas cedar, shorter and more densely set than those of the Deodar. The bark is the darkest of all three. This specimen bears only male cones, but if it did make female ones they would be mostly at the top of the tree and larger than those of Atlas cedar. One reason Lebanese cedars are so rare is that they make fewer cones that have lower seed germination rates than the other species, and the seedlings grow slowly. The wood is hard and extremely durable and retains a delightful cedar fragrance for many years. An essential oil extracted from the wood is used in perfumes.

[Leaves and cone of Cedar of Lebanon]

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