Cedarwood is a form of wood that comes from different types of trees known as “cedars” that are cultivated in different regions of the world and also have different uses and purposes. Cedar trees are coniferous trees which mean that they have needle-like leaves (ranging from vibrant green to intense blue-green), often related to an evergreen fir tree. These Christmas-like trees can grow up to 100 feet in height, and at times higher. Their brown seed cones need almost a year to reach maturity, and by the time they mature, they split up and disperse their seeds in the air.
The wood obtained from cedar trees is known to possess aromatic qualities, which is why they are used in creams, lotions, essential oils, etc. Cedarwood is also an active ingredient in the ever-so-popular cedarwood essential oil which comes with plenty of health benefits. Research shows that the daily use of cedarwood essential oil can relieve the user from stress and fatigue. It has a rich, woody aroma that is used for the purpose of aromatherapy. This, in turns, helps in managing chronic pain, improving sleep quality, treating headaches and migraines, and soothing sore joints. The uses of cedar wood today greatly differ from those from ancient times. A Mediterranean civilization – Phoenicia – extracted cedar for building houses and ships. They also believed that cedar groves were the house of their gods and therefore used to burn them during ceremonies.
Along with numerous historic and current uses, cedar trees have four major types. These types are discussed in detail below.
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Related: All types of hardwood flooring
Types of Cedar Trees
1. Deodar Cedar
Having the scientific name – Cedrus deodara, the deodar cedar is a conifer tree that is famous for its weeping habits all around the world. Some other common names by which this tree goes by are deodar and the Himalayan cedar. The name deodar is famously derived from the word “devadaru.” Devadaru is a Sanskrit word which translates to “timber of the gods.”
Deodar is favored as a specimen tree for large parks and gardens as they help intensify the beauty of these places. This cedar species is considered to be the national tree of Pakistan and has earned the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
You can identify this species of trees by its distinctive physical attributes. For example, it has long conifer needles, an inch or two long, and comes in either a deep bluish-green or grayish-green color. Native to the Western Himalayas, this non-flowering plant requires full sun exposure along with moist, sandy soil for its growth. The tree has the ability to grow up to 40 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide.
Also known as Cedrus Atlantica, the Atlas cedar is a tall coniferous tree that can grow up to the height of 40 to 60 feet with a trunk diameter of 5 to 6 feet. Native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the Atlas cedar is slow to moderate growing species. The other traits that make this tree different from its counterparts are its wide pyramidal shape with a silhouette wide and open, and striking silvery blue needles, which usually are ¾ to 1 inch in length.
This pyramid-shaped tree needs full sun to partial shade for healthy growth. It generally prefers moist, well-drained soil and can tolerate heavy drought and wind. Keep in mind that these trees can get affected by pests like borers, sapsuckers, and weevils, and hence, effective pesticides must be used to get rid of them.
For additional care, this species needs to be fertilized with formulations that encourage strong and sturdy growth. Trim it when the tree is young so that it may prevent shedding of heavy snowfalls in winter. Remember that these species grow best in large properties.
The rarest species of cedars, the Cyprian cedar is typically seen in the mountainous regions of Cyprus, Syria, and Turkey. Also known as yellow cedar, the Cyprian cedar is admired for its smaller leaves and an umbrella-shaped crown.
These trees are often compared and contrasted with the Cedar of Lebanon due to some common intrinsic properties they both share. However, their physical attributes differ largely from one another. Unlike the Cyprian cedar, the Cedar of Lebanon has longer leaves and a pyramidal crown.
Scientifically known as Cedrus Libani, Lebanon cedar is the national tree of Lebanon. While it is native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean basin, cedar of Lebanon is cultivated and grown in many other parts of the world, especially in Syria and Turkey.
As stated above, these trees produce long, straight leaves and pyramid-shaped crown, with the ability to grow up to 40 m in height. What makes Lebanon cedar popular is its undeniable biblical and historic significance in ancient Lebanon. History shows that this type of cedar was imported to Egypt during the reign of King Sneferu for the purpose of boat construction. Officials from far-flung regions like Byblos and Mesopotamia would travel to the ancient East in hope to find Lebanon cedar.
Lebanon cedar is often referred to in various scriptures. It is regarded as an aromatic wood used for constructing buildings in Iron Age Israel. The Bible is a testament of the fact that the Lebanon cedar was used by King David for building his palace and Solomon for the construction of both his temples as well as the palace.
Types of Cedar Wood
Since there are many kinds of cedar trees in different forms, sizes, and colors, it makes sense that the wood excavated from these species aren’t all similar. Read on to learn about different types of cedar wood.
The wood obtained from Western red cedar is used for the construction of decking, siding, shingles, and plenty of outdoor structures. The reason why this type of cedar is popular for outdoor construction is that they possess the ability to resist decay and repel unwanted water. Being a member of the cypress family, this species of trees can grow as tall as 200 feet with trunk diameter as wide as 10 feet.
The wood is low in density and super light in weight, which makes it easy to cut into whichever shape you like. While it is easy to shape it using any hand or power tools, the sawdust that cutting this type of wood produces can result in rashes and breathing problems. If you are highly sensitive, ensure that you hire professionals instead of cutting the wood all by yourself.
Western red cedar has a remarkable reddish-brown tone, with hints of pink to it. Although it has thin white sapwood, it gets eliminated during lumber processing. However, it does retain knots, especially in lower grade cedar wood.
Sometimes called “arbor vitae” (tree of life), Northern White Cedar is native to Southeastern Canada, and the northeastern quarter of the U.S. The wood logs of this type of cedar tend to be lighter than the red cedar, making it super convenient to work with. Owing to its lightweight, the wood is fragile and may cut without the use of sharp power tools like sharp cutters or backer boards. Like western red cedar, it may cause rashes or respiratory problems in workers.
You can identify northern white cedar by its thin line of creamy white sapwood that surrounds the wood’s light brown inner portion, with knots included. Like a high-quality wood, Northern white wood resists decay and pest infestation, making it an ideal choice for outdoor constructs like posts, boats, decking, and shingles.
This type of cedar boasts many popular cultivars such as:
- Booth Globe
- Hetz Junior
- Douglasi Pyramidalis
- Emerald Green
Scientifically known as Juniperus Virginiana, eastern red cedar belongs to the cypress family as well. This species is generally grown throughout the eastern side of the United States, up to the height of 20 m to 40 m. However, there are some trees that reach 100 m or taller.
Some people call this wood “aromatic cedar” due to its strong, woody smell. The wood also produces organic oils that are used to line closets and drawers to keep harmful insects at bay.
Eastern red cedar is easy to work with both hand and power tools as they are neither too heavy nor too light. However, it is best to use a respirator or gloves to stay clear of rashes and respiratory problems. One of the common areas where eastern red cedar is used is in stationary industries and souvenir manufacturing companies. In appearance, the heartwood of eastern red cedar bears pinkish-red tones with purplish or deep reddish-brown outer streaks. On the other hand, the sapwood is nearly white in color with knots available all over the wood.
Aromatic cedar wood functions best in open regions or else it may cause finishing issues. Therefore, any furniture, drawer, or closet designed from this type of wood must not be kept in confined spaces. For the best possible finishing outcome, use polyurethane or lacquer.
Commonly known as yellow cedar, Alaska cedar popularly grows in the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska all the way to British Columbia. The wood collected from this species is super hard and dense, which is unlike other cedar wood discussed up till now. Its distinctive yellow-colored wood features tight rings that are proof of its slow to moderate growth.
Most American builders use yellow cedar to produce super light and durable decks, railings, canoe paddles, and interior paneling. Alaska cedar wood is also quite popular among musical instrument makers as the wood has a remarkable sound quality to it.
While this cedar mainly comes in yellow color, it may also feature in a creamy white hue with deep, dark streaks to it. During lumber processing, wood machines help stain the wood enough to produce a lovely sheen to it.
Scientifically called “Cedrela Oderata,” Spanish cedar is a native species of Central and South America. Owing to its lightweight, this relative of mahoganies is a common choice among woodcutters and builders and is used for all kinds of construction from building furniture to windows to cabinets to cupboards.
Although it is quite hard to find in Europe and the United States, Spanish cedar is still the most sought-after wood for lining cigar humidors. That’s because of its pleasant-smelling oils, pest resistance, and moisture resistance.
This tall cedar tree consists of straight-lined woods that are easy to cut and machine. Their heartwood is pinkish to reddish-brown in tone, but with time, it darkens over.
Cedarwood is durable, versatile, resists decay and many insects, and is easy to use and maintain – good enough reasons to invest in it!
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