There are many different types of trees called cedar trees. Most are used for ornamental or other landscape purposes, such as those from the Thuja species (northern or eastern white cedar), which are not true cedar trees. Others are commercially grown for their wood and oil. Trees such as the Lebanon cedar are from the Cedrus species and are considered true cedars. They have tremendous value in many ways.
Species and History
There are four species of true cedar trees. They are Cedrus deodar (which is the most commonly planted in the United States), C. atlantica, C. brevifolia and C. liban. The value of true cedar trees was discovered very early in history. In fact, ancient Egyptians used to use cedar shavings during the mummification process, according to an article by Paula M. Pijut on treelink.org.
Cedar trees are often planted as landscape trees and are valuable in their attractiveness. Some can grow very large, according to the University of California, and are best used in parks or other wide-open spaces. C. atlantica has a cultivar called "Glauca" that has strongly-colored, bluish-silver leaves that are highly striking. "Glauca" is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zones 6 through 9. Cedrus deodara, which is desirable for its gracefully drooping branches, is the most widely planted landscape cedar tree in America. It grows best in USDA zones 7 through 9.
The wood of true cedars is highly durable and can be used for a number of building purposes. In fact, cedar trees are highly valuable commercial trees. Every species of Cedrus is used for construction, according to the Gymnosperm Database. Shingles are made from cedar wood, as are fences, decks, cabinets and other furniture.
Cedar wood has a strong, pleasing fragrance that is known to repel insects. This is another value of cedar trees. "Mothballs," which are small, round balls made from cedar wood, are often placed in clothing drawers or trunks to keep moths out of the clothes. Jewelry and keepsake boxes are often made out of cedar wood, not only because the wood is beautiful, but also because of the wonderful scent.
Oil is often harvested from distilled cedar wood and used to scent soaps and lotions. Essential oils from C. deodar and C. libani (the Lebanon cedar) have been used for centuries in Asia in medications, according to Floridata. Such medications range from antiseptic ointments to treatments for tuberculosis.