telling apart Cedrus libani and atlantic

August 30, 2013

More cedar questions:

I can identify deodara easily, but often have trouble between C. libani and C. atlantica.

Are there some basic characteristics on telling them apart?

Comments (11)

  • Embothrium

    Both types come in different shades of green and gray. In the ne US the hardy ones are Cedar-of-Lebanon forms. Atlas cedar is from Africa, Cedar-of-Lebanon grows in Turkey etc. where some parts may be quite a bit colder than the Atlas Mountains.

  • lcadem

    Honestly, back in italy, it has never been a problem to distinguish lebanon cedars from atlanticas. Even people with no botany experience distinguish them. The lebanon cedars have a completely different habit when mature. The color is also very different. The lebanon cedars have a emerald green or darker foliage while the atlanticas are more glaucous. Also lebanon cedars are less hardy.

    This of course only applies to the plants that are common in Italy. It might have little to do with the general behaviour of the species.

  • Sara Malone Zone 9b

    So that a subspecies would be more like the species than a variety would (on a continuum)?

    Are these mostly determined by location?

    Thx for the botany lesson!


  • pineresin

    Subspecies (subsp.) is a higher rank than variety (var.), which is in turn a higher rank than a form (f.).

    Treating Atlas Cedar as a subspecies fits the currently known data best.


  • Sara Malone Zone 9b

    Resin is it a subspecies or a variety? And I'm not sure that I really understand the difference.


  • Embothrium

    Cultivated stock doesn't all fit into neat boxes either, hence such discussions - and the suggestion that some trees are derived from hybrid seed arising in cultivation. Schwartz (sp?) thought there were two basic species, a Himalayan and a Mediterranean in the 1940s, and later interpretation continues in that same vein.

  • pineresin

    "I can identify deodara easily, but often have trouble between C. libani and C. atlantica."

    No surprise! Same for me.

    "Are there some basic characteristics on telling them apart?"

    No! Cultivated specimens often can be told apart, because they show a limited range of variation due to the limited original sample size from the wild populations (seed collected from only a few trees in each population). When a fuller range of natural variation in wild specimens is checked, the "differences" (in e.g. cone shape, needle sharpness, cone size and shape, branch angle, etc.) widely cited in popular textbooks tend to disappear. Even the universally-cited short needles of Cyprus Cedar is not reliable; I've seen a herbarium specimen of it, from the wild in Cyprus, with needles just as long as on typical Lebanon Cedars.

    There are genetic differences between Lebanon and Atlas Cedars; these are markedly less than the differences between Lebanon and Deodar Cedars, but more than the differences between Lebanon and Cyprus and Turkish Cedars. On those grounds, subspecies is the most appropriate rank for Atlas Cedar:

    Scale equates to estimated millions of years, from Qiao, C.-Y., Ran, J.-H., Li, Y., & Wang, X.-Q. (2007). Phylogeny and Biogeography of Cedrus (Pinaceae) Inferred from Sequences of Seven Paternal Chloroplast and Maternal Mitochondrial DNA Regions. Annals of Botany 100: 573-580.

    Interesting to point out that Turkish Cedars are genetically closer to Cyprus Cedar than they are to Lebanese Lebanon Cedar. So those who still consider Cyprus Cedar a separate species would have to include Turkish Cedar in that, rather than in Lebanon Cedar (as they traditionally do).


  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


    i bend over a little further..

    adjust the trifocals..

    and then ask someone else




  • subtropix

    Maybe I don't notice other Cedars, but for whatever the reason, around here it is mostly C. atlántica--with the weeping one being about as common as the non-weeping variety. Think i read that atlantica does better in a wet/humid climate, so that may explain it. One of my favorite trees.

  • Embothrium

    Atlas cedars tend not to be so sharp and stiff (of both leaf and habit), with smaller, less lumpy cones. In my area there are way more of them around than Cedar-of-Lebanon and Cyprus cedar.

  • Sara Malone Zone 9b

    Edwin says that all of the atlanticas are now C. libani var. atlantica. So don't feel bad if you can't tell them apart!


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