|Lebanon cedar in the forest of the Cedars of God.|
Cedrus libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region. It is named after and appears on the flag of Lebanon, where it is native, and is also endemic in areas ranging from eastern Turkey to western Jordan.
Cedrus libani is an evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 40 m (130 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) in diameter. The crown is conic when young, becoming broadly tabular with age with fairly level branches.
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 ( 1⁄4–1 3⁄16 in) in length, quadrangular in cross-section, and vary from green to glaucous blue-green with stomatal bands on all four sides. The seed cones are produced often every second year, and mature in 12 months from pollination; mature cones in late autumn are 8–12 cm (3–4 3⁄4 in) long and 4–6 cm (1 1⁄2–2 3⁄8 in) wide.
Cedrus libani was first classified by the French botanist Achille Richard. There are two distinct types that are considered either as subspecies or varieties:
- C. libani var. libani: Lebanon cedar, cedar of Lebanon – grows in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, northwest Jordan, western Syria, and south central Turkey
- C. libani var. stenocoma: Turkish cedar, Taurus cedar – grows in southwest Turkey
Some botanists also classify the Cyprus cedar (Cedrus brevifolia) and Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica) as subspecies of C. libani. However, a majority of the modern sources consider them distinct species.
In Lebanon and Turkey it occurs most abundantly at altitudes of 1,000-2,000 m (3,300–6,500 ft), where it forms pure forests or mixed forests with Cilician fir (Abies cilicica), European black pine (Pinus nigra), and several juniper (Juniperus) species. On Cyprus, it occurs at 1,000-1,525 m (3,300–5,000 ft) (reaching the summit of Mount Paphos). In the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, it occurs at 1,370–2,200 m (4,500–7,200 ft) in pure forests or mixed with Abies species and Juniperus thurifera.
History, symbolism and uses
Hebrew priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon cedar in the treatment of leprosy. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah used the Lebanon cedar as a metaphor for the pride of the world.
Over the centuries, extensive deforestation has occurred, with only small remnants of the original forests surviving. Deforestation has been particularly severe in Lebanon and on Cyprus; on Cyprus, only small trees up to 25 m (82 ft) tall survive, though Pliny the Elder recorded cedars 40 m (130 ft) tall there. Extensive reforestation of cedar is carried out in the Mediterranean region, particularly Turkey, where over 50 million young cedars are being planted annually. The Lebanese populations are also now expanding through a combination of replanting and protection of natural regeneration from browsing by goats, hunting, forest fires, and woodworms.
Historically, there were various attempts at conserving the Lebanon cedars. The first was made by the Roman emperor Hadrian, "when the great cedar forests of Lebanon were already much diminished in area." Hadrian created an imperial forest and ordered it marked by inscribed boundary stones, two of which are in the museum of the American University of Beirut.
National and regional significance
The Lebanon cedar is the national emblem of Lebanon, and is displayed on the flag of Lebanon and coat of arms of Lebanon. It is also the logo of Middle East Airlines (MEA), which is Lebanon's national carrier. Beyond that, it is also the main symbol of Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" of 2005, along with many Lebanese political parties and movements, such as the Kataeb Party, the Lebanese Forces, the National Liberal Party, and the Future Movement. Finally, Lebanon is sometimes metonymically referred to as the Land of the Cedars.
As a result of long exploitation, few old trees remain in Lebanon, but there is now an active program to conserve and regenerate the forests. The Lebanese approach has emphasized natural regeneration rather than planting, and this by creating the right conditions. The Lebanese state has created several cedar reserves or nature reserves that contain cedars, including the Chouf Cedar Reserves, the Jaj Cedar Reserve, the Tannourine Reserve, the Ammouaa and Karm Shbat Reserves in the Akkar district, and the Forest of the Cedars of God near Bsharri. Extensive replanting is taking place in Turkey, where approximately 300 square kilometres (74,000 acres) of cedar are planted annually.
It is unknown when the first cedar of Lebanon was planted in Britain, but it dates at least to 1664, when it is mentioned in Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber. In Britain, cedars of Lebanon are known for their use in London's Highgate Cemetery. However, the plant is known among arborists for its tendency to drop branches without warning, and the use of wire bracing is common to reduce risks of falling branches.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cedrus libani.|
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- Cedars of God - an old-growth Cedrus libani forest and World Heritage Site.
- Cedar (disambiguation)
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