A group of three, or, if the Cyprian cedar be regarded as more than a variety, four species of evergreen trees, forming a very homogeneous group. They are as closely allied to each other as they are markedly distinct from other coniferous trees. Sir Joseph Hooker and other authorities regarded them all as geographical forms of one species. In a recent study, Schwartz recognises two species: C. deodara and C. libani, which he subdivides into four subspecies, viz. subsp. libani, stenocoma (q.v. under C. libani), brevifolia, and atlantica (Fedde’s Repertorium, Vol. 54 (1), p. 26). Most closely allied to them are the larches, deciduous though these are. Given space for lateral development, old cedars become flat-topped, and their branches grow horizontally. As in the larches and some other conifers, the branchlets are of two kinds: (1) leading ones, which grow considerably (at least several inches) during the summer, and bear the leaves singly and spirally arranged; and (2) short, spur-like ones, which lengthen a fraction of an inch only per annum, and have the leaves crowded in a dense tuft at the end. The latter kind are capable of developing into the former. Flowers of both sexes appear on the same tree, usually on the upper side of the branches. Males very densely set in erect, finger-shaped cones, 2 to 3 in. long, 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. wide, shedding clouds of yellow pollen when ripe. Females in stout, erect cones, purplish at first, ultimately 3 to 5 in. long, flat or depressed at the top, the scales broad and closely overlapping; seeds winged.
The cedars all like a deep loamy soil, well drained but moist. They are admirably adapted for growing as specimen trees on lawns, and for this purpose should be planted when not more than 4 to 6 ft high. It is necessary to propagate some of the garden varieties by grafting on their typical forms, but they are of little importance. Trees raised from seed will always grow better and give the greater pleasure.
The timber of all the cedars as produced on their native mountains is valuable, but as grown in our milder, softer climate, it is not so hard and durable. The timber of English-grown Lebanon cedar is sometimes handsomely grained, and may be used for indoor purposes.