cedar, common name for a number of trees, mostly coniferous evergreens. The true cedars belong to the small genus Cedrus of the family Pinaceae (pine family). All are native to the Old World from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas, although several are cultivated elsewhere as ornamentals, especially the cedar of Lebanon ( C. libani ), which appears in the Lebanese flag. This tree, native to Asia Minor and North Africa, is famous for the historic groves of the Lebanon Mts., frequently mentioned in the Bible. The wood used in building the Temple and the house of Solomon (1 Kings 5, 6, and 7) may, however, have been that of the deodar cedar ( C. deodara ), native to the Himalayas. It has fragrant wood, durable and fine grained, and is venerated by the Hindus, who call it Tree of God. The name cedar is used (particularly in North America, where no cedars are native) for other conifers, e.g., the juniper (red cedar), arborvitae (white cedar), and others of the family Cupressaceae (cypress family). Several tropical American trees of the genus Cedrela of the mahogany family are also called cedars. True cedars are classified in the division Pinophyta, class Pinopsida, order Coniferales, family Pinaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.