Snowy Cedar

Cedar of Lebanon

In the dawn I gathered cedar-boughs
For the plaiting of thy whip.
They were wet with sweet
They still thought of the night.

All alone I shredded cedar-boughs,
Green boughs in the pale light,
Where the morning meets the sea,
And the great mountain stops.

-Constance Lindsay Skinner


I hopped out of bed at the crack of dawn after the first snowfall of the winter, tossed on some warm clothes, & ran outside to play! I got the camera & took this photo of our blue-green Weeping Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani "Pendula"), when the sun was barely up. This was late in the year 2000 — or was it early 2001 — December or January in any case.

I feared the photo wouldn't come out with so little light, but luckily it captured the morning appearance beautifully, its weeping stature weighted over way more than usual thanks to the snow, & forming a rather amazing white arch one could walk beneath.

A second picture below was taken a week before the first snow (or was that after the snow melted?). It shows how much higher the bowing head is ordinarily.

The third photo is the same cedar after another pleasant snowstorm in January 2004. Note that in the intervening two years or so, it sent up two skyward branches each trying to be the "leader," as its initial leader wept at such an angle that the tree decided the former leader would become a limb. And the whole tree gained about four feet in height in the meantime.

Cedar of LebanonMore winter photos can be seen on the Cedar of Lebanon Page along the Winter Park Garden Walk & among the photos for the report on Our Back Yard during a Snowy Week in January.

Though many trees are called cedars only four are true cedars of the Cedrus family: the Mount Atlas Cedar (C. atlantica) from Algeria, the Deodar Cedar C. deodaras from the western Himlayas, the Cyprus Cedar (C. brevifolia) baring the name of its native island, & C. libani, the Cedar of Lebanon.

I found a discription of the primary forms which said "it will readily be noticed that at different ages each kind nearly resembles the others" & some specialists long regarded them as only geographical races of a single species. Only quite recently did allozyme analysis definitively establish them as distinct species.

Although there are but four recognized species of the true cedar total, there are numerous cultivated varieties of each, & even within a single type the appearance can be extremely different one specimen to the next depending on its age, training, or natural development.

Cedar of LebanonThe "Pendula" form is one of the hardiest of Cedrus libani. Some of these Pendulas weep far more dramatically, humping over onto the ground like green-furred serpents. But the one we have spent its first decade of life "sun-staked" so that it would only weep near the top. It will someday be a giant & will probably in some future decade outgrow the yard. If we'd planned better we'd've selected one that is more permanently a dwarf, but even with its rapid growth, it isn't apt ever to be a danger to the house in my lifetime.

We fell in love with it at the nursery standing underneath it & looking straight up at its towering overhang. Though a young tree, it gave the impression of being even larger than it was. I expected it would not look so big in our yard when removed from its nursery setting, where it had been surrounded by shorter trees. But in fact when we got it in the ground in a sunny location, it was already as high as the eaves of the house, & instantly looked like it had been there some while.

Each year it adds over a foot of height, increasingly the dominant centerpiece of the back yard. With it's "wild" appearance & protective lean, it is like some mother hen of a conifer.

It's a particularly easy tree to love & all the more so because it is the tree of mystics, often associated with the sephiroth tree of Kabbalah, or the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. For a detailed discussion of this topic, see my essay on The Myths of the Cedar of Lebanon.


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