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Cedrus atlantica

Cedrus atlantica
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Scientific name: Cedrus atlantica  (Endlicher) Manetti ex Carrière  1855 

Synonyms: Abies atlantica (Endl.) Lindl. & Gordon, Cedrus africana Gordon ex Knight, Cedrus argentea Renou, Cedrus libani subsp. atlantica (Endl.) Batt. & Trab., Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Endl.) Hook.f., Cedrus libanitica subsp. atlantica (Endl.) O.Schwarz, Cedrus libanotica subsp. atlantica (Endl.) Jahand. & Maire, Pinus atlantica Endl., Pinus cedrus var. atlantica (Endl.) Parl.

Common names: Atlas cedar (English), Cèdre de l'Atlas (French), Arz atlassi (Arabic)



Trees to 30-35(-40) m tall, but at higher elevations usually lower, with trunk to 1.5-2 m. Trunk usually monopodial, columnar, massive, often forked above the middle. Bark on trunk cracked and fissured, rough, dark grey, breaking into flaking plates revealing reddish brown bark. Branches of first order massive, the upper ones ascending, the lower horizontal or bent downward; branches of second order crowded, spreading in horizontal or descending planes, ascending near the top of the tree; crown in young trees broadly conical, in old trees spreading laterally, becoming flat topped. Branchlets short, firm, except leading shoot, which is longer and slender, grey green or grey brown, soon turning grey and flaking, densely blackish pubescent at first; pulvini on long shoots small, prominent; short shoots thick, scaly, of variable length with age (0.5-3 cm), assurgent or erect. Vegetative buds ovoid globular, 2-3 × 1.5-2 mm, not resinous; bud scales broadly ovate, red brown, dark brown or blackish at apex, deciduous. Leaves on long shoots spirally arranged, remote, near base of long shoot more crowded, radially spreading, falling in 2nd or 3rd year; on short shoots densely crowded in false whorls, 20-45, spreading radially, (1-)1.5-2.5(-3) cm long, 1-1.5 mm wide, narrowly linear, straight or curved, diamond shaped in cross section; apex acute or acuminate; stomata on all sides, more numerous on two adjacent sides; colour glossy dark green or glaucous. Pollen cones terminal on short shoots, erect, subtended by leaves, numerous, soon falling after shedding pollen, 3-4 cm long, straight, later curved, first rose yellow, later pale brown. Seed cones terminal on short shoots, erect, sessile, becoming woody in 2nd year, ovoid or barrel shaped; apex obtuse or retuse, 5-8 × 3-5 cm, light green, maturing to pale green, with purplish edges of seed scales, ripening to light (purplish) brown; cone rachis persistent, narrowly conical. Seed scales broad flabellate, thin, coriaceous, length × width 2-3 × 2.5-3.5 cm; surface smooth, orange-brown pubescent at base, glabrous on exposed parts; upper margin entire, slightly incurved; base pedicellate. Seeds ovoid conical, 8-13 × 4-6 mm, brown; seed wings broad cuneate, 18-25 × 12-17 cm, (light) brown.

Atlas and Rif Mountains of Morocco and Algeria; 1,300-2,000(-2,600) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered

Cedrus atlantica has an estimated extent of occurrence greater than 20,000 km². Its total actual area of occupancy is estimated to be between 1,300 and 1,500 km² and there are seven main locations. Range wide declines of up to 75% in area of occupancy are estimated to have occurred between 1940 and 1982. Recent droughts have led to further declines in many parts of its range and it is likely that they will continue if the regional climate continues to become more arid. Outbreaks of pests and diseases have exacerbated the situation. Without proper control measures in place these negative effects are likely to continue.  The decline over the last 50 years is sufficient to warrant an assessment of Endangered under the criteria for A2 (three generations is 90 years).

Recent genetic analysis have indicated that two major subpopulations exist: one in the Rif and Middle Atlas mountains in Morocco and the other through the Algerian Tell Atlas and Aurès mountains. Stands within these subpopulations are relatively localized and fragmented.

Atlas cedar occurs at elevations of 1,300 to 2,600 m a.s.l., where the amount of annual rainfall ranges from 500 to 2,000 mm and the minimum temperature of the coldest month ranges between −1 and −8 °C [35,46]. The Middle Atlas (northern Morocco) contains about 80% of the Atlas cedar forest surface area (ca. 100,000 ha). Middle Atlas cedar forests contain several evergreens (Holm Oak, Quercus rotundifolia, Prickly Juniper, Juniperus oxycedrus, European holly, Ilex aquifolium) and deciduous (Acer opalus, Crataegus laciniata) tree and shrub species. Taxus baccata also occurs in the Algerian forests.

Atlas cedar forests have been exploited for their timber for several centuries. In addition, they have been subject to overgrazing and repeated burning. Exploitation has increased over the last 50 years: range wide declines of up to 75% are estimated to have occurred between 1940 and 1982. Since the 1980s a series of droughts have led to further decline, especially in areas closest to the Saharan desert. Crown defoliation by processionary caterpillars (Thaumetopoea bonjeani and Thaumetopoea  pityocampa), cedar bark stripping by Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus), and damage by cedar bark beetles (Phaenops marmottani) seem to have exacerbated the recent decline.  Recent dendroclimatological studies have indicated that the current series of droughts are at least as intense as any that have occurred in the last thousand years. Projections for future climate change indicate a continued decrease in precipitation.

Heavily exploited over several centuries for its strong durable timber. Essential oils are also distilled from the timber and foliage. It is widely cultivated in Europe.

Many stands are located within National Parks and receive some protection from overgrazing and logging. Programmes to monitor the extent and severity of recent die-back are in place.



Cedrus atlantica ’Albospica’
Cedrus atlantica ’Argentea’
Cedrus atlantica ’Argentea fastigiata’
Cedrus atlantica ’Arneson’s Dwarf’
Cedrus atlantica ’Aurea’
Cedrus atlantica ’Aurea Prostrata’
Cedrus atlantica ’Aurea Robusta’
Cedrus atlantica ’Aureovariegata’
Cedrus atlantica ’Bergkristal’
Cedrus atlantica ’Blue Cascade’
Cedrus atlantica ’Cheltenham’
Cedrus atlantica ’Cinerea’
Cedrus atlantica ’Cinerescens’
Cedrus atlantica ’Columnaris’
Cedrus atlantica ’Compact Gem’
Cedrus atlantica ’Contorta’
Cedrus atlantica ’Csontvári’
Cedrus atlantica ’Emerald Weeper’
Cedrus atlantica ’Fastigiata’
Cedrus atlantica ’Fastigiata Glauca’
Cedrus atlantica ’Fez’
Cedrus atlantica ’Glauca’
Cedrus atlantica ’Glauca Aurea’
Cedrus atlantica ’Glauca Fastigiata’
Cedrus atlantica ’Glauca Horizontalis’
Cedrus atlantica ’Glauca Pendula’
Cedrus atlantica ’Glauca Pendula Contorta’
Cedrus atlantica ’Globus’
Cedrus atlantica ’Granny Louise’
Cedrus atlantica ’Green Vase’
Cedrus atlantica ’Hillier’s HB’
Cedrus atlantica ’Hillsboro’
Cedrus atlantica ’Homepark’
Cedrus atlantica ’Horstmann’
Cedrus atlantica ’J. F. Wilson’
Cedrus atlantica ’Kelly Leonard’s Gold’
Cedrus atlantica ’Kondor’
Cedrus atlantica ’Kruaus Twisted’
Cedrus atlantica ’Lilliput’
Cedrus atlantica ’Morocco’
Cedrus atlantica ’Mount St. Catherina’
Cedrus atlantica ’Nana’
Cedrus atlantica ’Nivea’
Cedrus atlantica ’Pendula’
Cedrus atlantica ’Pyramidalis’
Cedrus atlantica ’Robusta Aurea’
Cedrus atlantica ’Robusta Green’
Cedrus atlantica ’Rustic’
Cedrus atlantica ’Sahara Frost’
Cedrus atlantica ’Sahara Ice’
Cedrus atlantica ’Sander’s Blue Weeper’
Cedrus atlantica ’Saphir Nymph’
Cedrus atlantica ’Short Needled Form’
Cedrus atlantica ’Silberspitz’
Cedrus atlantica ’Silver Dust’
Cedrus atlantica ’St. Catherina’
Cedrus atlantica ’Swan Island’
Cedrus atlantica ’Taurus’
Cedrus atlantica ’Taverna’
Cedrus atlantica ’Turkish Baby’
Cedrus atlantica ’Turkish Delight’
Cedrus atlantica ’Uwe’
Cedrus atlantica ’Variegata’
Cedrus atlantica ’Viridis’
Cedrus atlantica ’Wilkman’



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

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