Atlas Cedar – Cedrus atlantica

Tree of the Week

4th February 2020 | Info

Common name: Atlas Cedar 

Scientific name: Cedrus atlantica 

Introduction: The Atlas Cedar is an evergreen needle-conifer that is native to the Atlas Mountains. They have a unique branching habit and can occasionally reach up to 40m tall.  


Leaves: Needles form in spirally clusters on long shoots and vary in colour from a dark-green to a silvery-blue. The needles of a Cedrus atlantica produce a layer of wax which varies in thickness and protects them from sunburn and desiccation. The tree is an evergreen. 

Buds: Small and ovate. Typically enveloped in scales.  

Bark: Grey and smooth. As the tree matures, it develops a ‘plate’-like pattern, becoming dark grey and scaly.  

Form: Typically pyramidal in shape when young but they broaden as they mature.  


Atlas Cedars are monoecious meaning they have both male and female cones on the same tree. Atlas cedar flowers form in inflorescences in the early summer and become fully developed early-mid autumn. Male flowers form in winged catkins with reddish-purple female flowers forming in cone-like inflorescences on the upper layer of the tree. These flowers then develop into upright, barrel-shaped cones on branches. Male cones are typically longer and primarily form on lower branches. 

Growth Habit:

Begins slow but eventually becomes quite rapid growth. They can occasionally reach heights between 30-40m. 

Interesting Facts:

Atlas Cedars are one of the very few African trees that thrive in the UK and are currently being used as a plantation species for forest restoration in southern France. Atlas cedars were introduced to the UK in 1841. 

Ecological Importance:

In their native countries, Atlas cedars provide a habitat for an endangered species of macaque. 

Properties of Atlas Cedar Wood and its Uses:

Atlas Cedar wood is known for having a strong fragrance. The wood (and oils) naturally repel moths, making them an ideal wood for lining chests and wardrobes. The lightwood timber has a straight grain and a medium to fine texture. It is the main Timberwood used in Morocco and is suitable for outdoor use. However, the wood can warp when it begins to dry, and its strength can weaken. 

Styling of Atlas Cedars/Where to Find Them:

Parks and gardens (particularly good as an urban tree as they are relatively tolerant of pollution). They make good ornamental trees. 

Associated Pests and Diseases:

Atlas Cedars are susceptible to Honey Fungus which can lead to Armillaria Root Rot and when young, Phytophthora cinnamomi. They also suffer from similar Cypress diseases such as Cypress Cankers (Seirium Cardinale) and Cypress Aphids (Cinara cupressivora).


Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Atlas cedar’s/any cedar react negatively and don’t respond well to pruning. For this reason, experts encourage people not to prune them and let them be. Deep pruning cuts (which can easily be done due to the cedar ‘dead-zone’) can easily kill a cedar tree. However, sometimes dead or diseased branches may need to be removed. Whenever you are considering pruning a cedar tree, you should ALWAYS contact a tree surgeon as any wrong move may lead to the death of your tree. Qualified tree surgeons will be able to advise you on what your cedar needs (if anything) and will be able to conduct the work safely, reducing the risk of accidental death of your tree. You can find your local professional here.  

Growth Rate after Pruning: N/A.  

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