The species described here is the only hardy member of the important mahogany family, though the beautiful Melia azedarach is widely grown in climates not so very much warmer than ours. The genus Cedrela has its main distribution in the American tropics and is rarer in the Old World: C. australis, the Australian ‘red cedar’, is now usually placed in the related genus Flindersia. C. odorata, the ‘Spanish cedar’, yields an aromatic wood from which all cigar-boxes were once made.
C. sinensis bears some resemblance to Ailanthus altissima in the related family Simaroubaceae; but in that species the leaflets bear glandular teeth near the base and the leaves lack the oniony smell that characterises the cedrela.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
The genus Cedrela, as understood by some botanists, is confined to the New World, from Mexico and the West Indies to South America. The type-species is C. odorata of the West Indies. The Old World species, which differ from Cedrela in the narrow sense in certain characters of the flower and seed, are placed in the genus Toona, which was split from Cedrela by M. Roemer in 1843. He took as the type the wide-ranging Cedrela toona, described from India, and renamed it Toona ciliata, transferring Cedrela sinensis to this new genus at the same time. This segregate genus is recognised by Pennington and Styles (Blumea, Vol. 22, pp. 511-12 (1975)).