Cedrus atlantica

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Cedrus atlantica
Cedrus atlantica.jpg
Atlas Cedar (Ifrane, Morocco)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Cedrus
Species: C. atlantica
Binomial name
Cedrus atlantica
(Endl.) Manetti ex Carrière

C. libani subsp. atlantica (Endl.) Batt. & Trab.

Cedrus atlantica, the Atlas cedar, is a cedar native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco (Middle Atlas, High Atlas), and the Rif. And to the Tell Atlas in Algeria.[2] A majority of the modern sources[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] treat it as a distinct species Cedrus atlantica, but some sources[11][12] consider it a subspecies of Lebanon cedar (C. libani subsp. atlantica).


Fully grown, Atlas cedar is a large coniferous evergreen tree, 30–35 m (rarely 40m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 1.5–2 m.It is very similar in all characters to the other varieties of Lebanon cedar; differences are hard to discern. The mean cone size tends to be somewhat smaller (although recorded to 12 cm,[2] only rarely over 9 cm long, compared to up to 10 cm in C. brevifolia, and 12 cm in C. libani, though with considerable overlap (all can be as short as 6 cm). The Cedrus atlantica leaf length (10–25 mm) is similar that of C. libani subsp. stenocoma, on average longer than C. brevifolia and shorter than C. libani subsp. libani, but again with considerable overlap.[2][8][13]


Atlas cedar forms forests on mountain sides at 1,370 to 2,200 m, often in pure forests, or mixed with Algerian Fir - Abies numidica, Juniperus oxycedrus, Holm oak - Quercus ilex, and Acer opalus. These forests can provide habitat for the endangered Barbary Macaque, Macaca sylvanus, a primate that had a prehistorically much wider distribution in northern Morocco and Algeria.[14]

Currently Morocco has the highest total surface of Atlas Cedar in the world, and it forms vast forests in the humid zones of the country, around the Middle-Atlas range, the oriental and Northern High-Atlas range and in the Western and Central Rif mountain range. The current total area is around 163000 hectares, in which around 115000 hectares (80%) are situated in the Middle-Atlas Mountains. However, it is important to note that this beautiful specie is in danger of human use, wood mafia and fires. Data that goes back to 1927 shows higher number of Cedars (more than 150000 hectares) in the Middle-Atlas Mountains only. The Rif mountains had one of the largest cedar forests in the past, but they are at their lowest numbers nowadays, (15%) of the total Cedar forests in Morocco. However, lately, massive campaings of reforestation takes place in the region of Ifrane Province.

In Algeria, the Atlas Cedar has been in a massive decline. According to data from 1966, 23000 hectares only represented the specie, forming forests around the djurdjura Mountains in Kabylie and Aures Mountains, data goes back to (1966). However, It's expected that it does not represent more than 15000 hectares nowadays due to extensive fires and human use.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Cedrus atlantica: Foliage and mature female cone


Male cones beginning to shed pollen

Cedrus atlantica (Atlas cedar) is common in cultivation as an ornamental tree in temperate climates. In garden settings, often the glaucous forms are planted as ornamental trees, distinguished as the Glauca Group, a Cultivar Group. There are also fastigiate, pendulous, and golden-leaf forms in cultivation. The Atlas cedar is useful in cultivation because it is more tolerant of dry and hot conditions than most conifers.

Many (but far from all) of the cultivated trees have glaucous (bluish) foliage, more downy shoots, and can have more leaves in each whorl; young trees in cultivation often have more ascending branches than many cultivated Cedrus atlantica.[15]

An Atlas cedar is planted at the White House South Lawn in Washington, DC. President Carter ordered a tree house built within the cedar for his daughter Amy. The wooden structure was designed by the President himself, and is self-supporting so as not to cause damage to the tree.[16]


Cedar plantations, mainly with Cedrus atlantica, have been established in southern France for timber production.

Cultural references[edit]

George Harrison references the species in his song "Beware of Darkness."


  1. ^ Thomas, P. 2013. Cedrus atlantica. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 13 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Gaussen, H. (1964). Genre Cedrus. Les Formes Actuelles. Trav. Lab. For. Toulouse T2 V1 11: 295-320
  3. ^ Gymnosperm database Cedrus.
  4. ^ GRIN Taxonomy for Plants Cedrus.
  5. ^ NCBI Taxonomy Browser Cedrus.
  6. ^ Flora of China vol. 4
  7. ^ Qiao, C.-Y., Jin-Hua Ran, Yan Li and Xiao-Quan Wang (2007): Phylogeny and Biogeography of Cedrus (Pinaceae) Inferred from Sequences of Seven Paternal Chloroplast and Maternal Mitochondrial DNA Regions. Annals of Botany 100(3):573-580. Available online
  8. ^ a b Farjon, A. (1990). Pinaceae. Drawings and Descriptions of the Genera. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3-87429-298-3.
  9. ^ Farjon, A. (2008). A Natural History of Conifers. Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-869-0.
  10. ^ Christou, K. A. (1991). The genetic and taxonomic status of Cyprus cedar, Cedrus brevifolia (Hook.) Henry. Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Greece.
  11. ^ Güner, A., Özhatay, N., Ekim, T., & Başer, K. H. C. (ed.). 2000. Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands 11 (Supplement 2): 5–6. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1409-5
  12. ^ Eckenwalder, J. E. (2009). Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-974-3.
  13. ^ Schwarz, O. (1944). Anatolica. Feddes Repertorium 54: 26-34.
  14. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Barbary Macaque: Macaca sylvanus, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
  15. ^ Walters, W. M. (1986). European Garden Flora Vol 1. ISBN 0-521-24859-0.
  16. ^ http://www.whitehousehistory.org/04/subs_pph/PresidentDetail.aspx?ID=39&imageID=4232

External links[edit]