Cedrus Atlantica (Atlas Cedar): Botanical Description and Medicinal Uses

Cedrus atlantica (Atlas Cedar) is a large, beautiful, evergreen, blue coloured or bluish green coloured tree. The colour of this plant is due to the colour of the foliage. It is a long tree with a pyramid shaped crown with few open branches but can be spreading when mature. It is planted along the roadside, street walks, sidewalks, etc to enhance scenic beauty. It has glossy and cylindrical cones that mature in September and October.

Edible use of this plant is not known till date.  The foliage is used as animal feed.

Essential oils are extracted from the foliage and bark of the plant is used in the pharmaceutical and perfume industry. Cedrus atlantica is known to treat skin problems such as acne, eczema, arthritis, bronchitis, etc. It is also known to remove toxins from the body and purify the blood. Essential oil is considered anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and antiseptic in nature, can stimulate respiratory system and can calm the nerves. Due to the antiseptic and fungicidal properties of Cedar oil, it is used in many cosmetics.

Quick Review

Botanical Name Cedrus atlantica (Endl.) Manetti ex Carrière
Common Name Blue Atlas Cedar, Atlas Cedar
Major Group Dicot
Family Pinaceae
Genus Cedrus
Species Cedrus atlantica
Symbol CEDAT/CEUAT
Common Name Atlas Cedar, Blue atlas Cedar
Legal Status Endangered species
Known Hazards None known

Synonyms & Vernacular Names

Common Name Atlas Cedar, Blue Atlas Cedar, Atlantic Cedar, etc.
Botanical Name Cedrus atlantica (Endl.) Manetti ex Carrière
Botanical Synonym Cedrus libani A.Rich. var. atlantica Endl
English Name Atlas Cedar
Arabic Name Arz
Italian Name Cedro dell’atlante
German name Atlas- zeder; atlaszeder
Spanish name Cedro del Atlas
French name Cèdre de l’Atlas
Portuguese name Cedro-atlantico
Swedish name Atlas-ceder

Botanical Description

Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) is a large evergreen conifer with evergreen needle. It is a fast-growing tree and native to North America. It is an ornamental plant with some medicinal uses.

Plant Taxonomy

Kingdom PLANTAE
Subkingdom VIRIDIPLANTAE
Infrakingdom STREPTOPHYTA (Land Plants)
Super Division EMBRYOPHYTA
Division TRACHEOPHYTA (TRACHEOPHYTES or Vascular Plants)
Sub Division PINOPHYTA
Class PINOPSIDA (Flowering plants)
Subclass PINIDAE
Super Order MAGNOLIANEA
Order PINALES
Family PINACEAE
Genus Cedrus
Species Cedrus atlantica

Plant Description

Type of Plant Perennial
Native Range (Geographic Distribution) Atlas Cedar tress is native to Atlas Mountains of north-western Africa. The tree forest is distributed in Algeria, Morocco.
Height (grows up to) (40 – 60) m
Habitat (type of environment) – The type of environment in which an organism or group normally lives or occurs. Camphor tree is a large, evergreen tree and native to wetland forests of East Asia.
Roots Cedrus atlantica has mycorrhizal root system.
Stem The stem is woody, grey in colour and smooth in texture for 20-30 years. After 30 years, a plate-like pattern develops.
Leaves The leaves are called foliage that are needle shaped. The needles are simple with parallel venation, greenish to silvery-blue in colour, 0.5 to 1 inch long and are slightly curved. The arrangement of needles varies in plants depending upon the level of maturity. The short spurs have needles arranged in rosettes form while in long shoots the needles are arranged spirally.

Autumn foliage are evergreen.

Flowers/Cones The flowers are monoecious male and female cones. These are numerous in numbers and 2-3 inches in size. Male flowers and female flowers are distinct from each other. Male flowers shed their pollen grains in Autumn while the female flowers remain upright. Female flowers are purple in colour and found on the upper parts of the plant.
Fruits Fruits or cones are borne on the branches of the tree in an upright position. Cones are 3 inches long and barrel shaped. These cones mature in 2 years.
Seeds When the cones ripe, they open to release winged seeds.
Spread It spreads 25-40 feet in diameter.
Bloom Time It flowers in September.
Bloom Description Seeds ripen in October to December.
Sun Requires full sunlight or partial sunlight for proper growth.
Water Medium water requirement
Maintenance Medium maintenance is required
Suggested Use The plant is planted for its ornamental values. It gives durable wood that can be used for making furniture. It also has medicinal properties.
Flower Can be used as decorating item.
Leaf Leaf extract is used for obtaining essential oil.
Attracts Attracts humans for destruction for wood and timber extraction.
Tolerate Plant is tolerant to drought, atmospheric pollution and strong wind. It can also tolerate alkaline pH of soil, hot and humid climate.
Invasive Potential It is little invasive plant species.
Growing Season It grows well in summer season with no or less rain.
Propagation The seed is removed from the fruit when it ripens by taking out the pulp. The seed is then planted in soil as soon as possible.

Distribution & Ecology

Cedrus atlantica is a native to North Africa and occurs at high altitudes on the mountainsides. It needs full or partial sunlight for growth. It cannot grow in shady places. It prefers moist and dry soil for growth.

This plant provided habitat for Barbary macaque. This plant is an endangered species because of the human exploitation for wood and timber.

It is also used as habitat for many bird species for nesting and roosting.

Ethnobotany

Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) plant is traditionally used to treat diseases like arteriosclerosis, water retention, lymphatic damage, etc in many parts of the world. In the United states, this plant is grown as ornamental plant and for landscaping purposes. In North Africa, it is used for production of essential oils (Cedarwood oil) and medicine. In Algeria and Morocco, the plants are left undisturbed as it prevents soil erosion and also used as medicine to treat skin and hair problems.

Propagation

Seed propagation is done in case of Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica). Seeds (cones) are collected in winter and kept in a warm room until they open. Once the cones open, the seeds are sown immediately in a cold frame. This improves germination rates. The seed pot should be kept moist and well ventilated. When the seedlings are large enough to be handled, these are planted into individual pots. The pots are placed in cold frame for their first winter and then planted out in the soil in late spring or early summer.

Edible Uses

Cedrus atlantica is not used as culinary spices. It is only used as animal feed and fodder.

Edible Parts

Foliage are consumed by animals as animal feed and fodder.

Medicinal Uses

The antiseptic and fungicidal nature of Atlas Cedar it is effectively used against skin problems and hair problems. Essential oil derived from this plant is anti-spasmodic, insecticidal and sedative in nature and thus used to treat several diseases.

Atlas Cedar oil is used to treat acne, psoriasis and eczema. It is also used to smoothen skin. It is used to treat dandruff and prevents hair loss. The anti-bacterial nature is used against tuberculosis, bronchitis and gonorrhea. It also boosts respiratory system and can be used to treat cold and cough. It removes mucus from the respiratory tract and clears the system.

Atlas Cedar oil is also used to regulate menstruation and stimulates blood flow. The menstrual cramps can be relieved by this oil.

Atlas Cedarwood oil should be diluted before use as it might irritate the skin. It is not advisable to be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It should not be consumed orally.

Medicinal Parts

  • Stem bark
  • Foliage

Other Uses

Cedrus atlantica is a fast-growing species and is cultivated for its ornamental uses in the parks and avenues. It is heavily exploited for wood and durable timber. It is also used for fuel wood and as carving material. It is also used as insect repellent and for making pencils.

Photo Attribution Featured Image by Plant Image Library

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