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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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(Lat. cedrus, Gr. KESpos), a name applied to several members of the natural order Coniferae. The word has been derived from the Arabic Kedr, worth or value, or from Kedrat, strong, and has been supposed by some to have taken its origin from the brook Kedron, in Judaea.

Cedrus Libani, the far-famed Cedar of Lebanon, is a tree which, on account of its beauty, stateliness and strength, has always been a favourite with poets and painters, and which, in the figurative language of prophecy, is frequently employed in the Scriptures as a symbol of power, prosperity and longevity. It grows to a vertical height of from 50 to 80 ft. - "exalted above all trees of the field" - and at an elevation of about 6000 ft. above sea-level. In the young tree, the bole is straight and upright, and one or two leading branches rise above the rest. As the tree increases in size, however, the upper branches become mingled together, and the tree is then clump-headed. Numerous lateral ramifying branches spread out from the main trunk in a horizontal direction, tier upon tier, covering a compass of ground the diameter of which is often greater than the height of the tree. William Gilpin, in his Forest Scenery, describes a cedar which, at an age of about 118 years, had attained to a height of 53 ft. and had a horizontal expanse of 96 ft. The branchlets of the cedar take the same direction as the branches, and the foliage is very dense. The tree, as with the rest of the fir-tribe, except the larch, is evergreen; new leaves are developed every spring, but their fall is gradual. In shape the leaves are straight, tapering, cylindrical and pointed; they are about 1 in. long and of a dark green colour, and grow in alternate tufts of about thirty in number. The male and female flowers grow on the same tree, but are separate. The cones, which are on the upper side of the branches, are flattened at the ends and are 4 to 5 in. in length and 2 in. wide; they take two years to come to perfection and while growing exude much resin. The scales are close pressed to one another and are reddish in colour. The seeds are provided with a long membranous wing. The root of the tree is very strong and ramifying. The cedar flourishes best on sandy, loamy soils. It still grows on Lebanon, though for several centuries it was believed to be restricted to a small grove in the Kadisha valley at 6000 ft. elevation, about 15 m. from Beyrout. The number of trees in this grove has been gradually diminishing, and as no young trees or seedlings occur, the grove will probably become extinct in course of time. Cedars are now known to occur in great numbers on Mt. Lebanon, chiefly on the western slopes, not forming a continuous forest, but in groves, some of which contain several thousands of trees. There are also large forests on the higher slopes of the Taurus and Anti-Taurus mountains. Lamartine tells us that the Arabs regard the trees as endowed with the principles of continual existence, and with reasoning and prescient powers, which enable them to prepare for the changes of the seasons.

The wood of the cedar of Lebanon is fragrant, though not so strongly scented as that of the juniper or red-cedar of America. The wood is generally reddish-brown, light and of a coarse grain and spongy texture, easy to work, but liable to shrink and warp. Mountain-grown wood is harder, stronger, less liable to warp and more durable.

The cedar of Lebanon is cultivated in Europe for ornament only. It can be grown in parks and gardens, and thrives well; but the young plants are unable to bear great variations of temperature. The cedar is not mentioned in Evelyn's Silva (1664), but it must have been introduced shortly afterwards. The famous Enfield cedar was planted by Dr Robert Uvedale, (1642-1722), a noted schoolmaster and horticulturist, between 1662-1670, and an old cedar at Bretby Park in Derbyshire is known to have been planted in 1676. Some very old cedars exist also at Syon House, Woburn Abbey, Warwick Castle and elsewhere, which presumably date from the 17th century. The first cedars in Scotland were planted at Hopetoun House in 1740; and the first one said to have been introduced into France was brought from England by Bernard de Jussieu in 1734, and placed in the Jardin des Plantes. Cedar-wood is earliest noticed in Leviticus xiv. 4, 6, where it is prescribed among the materials to be used for the cleansing of leprosy; but the wood there spoken of was probably that of the juniper. The term Eres (cedar) of Scripture does not apply strictly to one kind of plant, but was used indefinitely in ancient times, as is the word cedar at present. The term arz is applied by the Arabs to the cedar of Lebanon, to the common pine-tree, and to the juniper; and certainly the "cedars" for masts, mentioned in Ezek. xxvii. 5, must have been pine-trees. It seems very probable that the fourscore thousand hewers employed by Solomon for cutting timber did not confine their operations simply to what would now be termed cedars and fir-trees. Dr John Lindley considered that some of the cedartrees sent by Hiram, king of Tyre, to Jerusalem might have been procured from Mount Atlas, and have been identical with Callitris quadrivalvis, or arar-tree, the wood of which is hard and durable, and was much in request in former times for the building of temples. The timber-work of the roof of Cordova cathedral, built eleven centuries ago, is composed of it. In the time of Vitruvius "cedars" were growing in Crete, Africa and Syria. Pliny says that their wood was everlasting, and therefore images of the gods were made of it; he makes mention also of the oil of cedar, or cedrium, distilled from the wood, and used by the ancients for preserving their books from moths and damp; papyri anointed or rubbed with cedrium were on this account called ced ati libri. Drawers of cedar or chips of the wood are now employed to protect furs and woollen stuffs from injury by moths. Cedar-wood, however, is said to be injurious to natural history objects, and to instruments placed in cabinets made of it, as the resinous matter of the wood becomes deposited upon them. Cedria, or cedar resin, is a substance similar to mastic, that flows from incisions in the tree; and cedar manna is a sweet exudation from its branches.

The genus Cedrus contains two other species closely allied to C. Libani - Cedrus Deodara, the deodar, or "god tree" of the Himalayas, and Cedrus atlantica, of the Atlas range, North Africa. The deodar forms forests on the mountains of Afghanistan, North Beluchistan and the north-west Himalayas, flourishing in all the higher mountains from Nepal up to Kashmir, at an elevation of from 5500 to 12,000 ft.; on the peaks to the northern side of the Boorung Pass it grows to a height of 60 to 70 ft. before branching. The wood is close-grained, long-fibred, perfumed and highly resinous, and resists the action of water. The foliage is of a paler green, the leaves are slender and longer, and the twigs are thinner than those of C. Libani. The tree is employed for a variety of useful purposes, especially in building. It is now much cultivated in England as an ornamental plant.

C. atlantica, the Atlas cedar, has shorter and denser leaves than C. Libani; the leaves are glaucous, sometimes of a silvery whiteness, and the cones smaller than in the other two forms; its wood also is hard, and more rapid in growth than is that of the ordinary cedar. It is found at an altitude above the sea of from 4000 to 6000 ft.

The name cedar is applied to a variety of trees, including species of several genera of Conifers, Juniperus, Thuja, Libocedrus and Cupressus. Thuja gigantea of western North America is known in the United States as White (or Yellow) cedar, and the same name is applied to Cupressus Lawsoniana, the Port Orford or Oregon cedar, a native of the north-west States, and one of the most valuable juniper trees of North America. The Bermuda cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) and the red or American cedar (J. virginiana) are both much used in joinery and in the manufacture of pencils; though other woods are now superseding them for pencil-making. The Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) is a kind of cypress, the wood of which is very durable. Another species of cypress (Cupressus thyoides, also known as Chamaecyparis thyoides or sphaeroidea), found in swamps in the south of Ohio and Massachusetts, is known as the American white cedar. It has small leaves and fibrous bark, the wood is light, soft and easily-worked, and very durable in contact with the soil, and is much used for boat-building and for making fences and coopers' staves. The Spanish cedar is a name applied to Juniperus thurifera, a native of the western Mediterranean region, and also to another species, J. Oxycedrus, a common plant in the Mediterranean region, forming a shrub or low tree with spreading branches and short, stiff, prickly leaves. The latter was much used by the Greeks for making images; and its empyreumatic oil, Huile de Cade, is used medicinally for skin-diseases. A species of cypress, Cupressus lusitanica, which has been naturalized in the neighbourhood of Cintra is known as the cedar of Goa. The genus Widdringtonia of tropical and South Africa is also known locally as cedar. W. juniperoides is the characteristic tree of the Cederberg range in Cape Colony, while W. Whytei, recently discovered in Nyasaland and Rhodesia (the Mlanje cedar) is a fine tree reaching 150 ft. in height, and yielding an ornamental light yellow-brown wood, suitable for building. The order Cedrelaceae (which is entirely distinct from the Conifers) includes, along with the mahoganies and other valuable timber-trees, the Jamaica and the Australian red cedars, Cedrela odorata, and C. Toona respectively. The cedar-wood of Guiana, used for making canoes, is a species of the natural order Bur seraceae, Icica altissima. It is a large tree, reaching roo ft. in height, the wood is easily worked, fragrant and durable. See Gordon's Pinetum; Loiseleur-Deslongchamps, Histoire du cbdre du Liban (Paris, 1838); Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum, vol. iv. pp. 2404-2432 (London, 1839); Marquis de Chambray, Traite1 pratique des arbres rsineux coniferes (Paris, 1845); J. D. Hooker, Nat. Hist. Review (January, 1862), pp. 11-18; Brandis, Forest Flora of North-west and Central India, pp. 516-525 (London, 1874); Veitch, Manual of Coniferae (2nd ed., London, 1900).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Cedar'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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