The cedar tree is part of the pine (pinaceae) family and is native to the countries of North Africa and Asia. Contrary to popular belief, true cedar trees have no varieties that are native to the U.S. In fact, in the book "Trees of North America" author Christian Frank Brockman explains that cedar trees that are planted in the U.S. are mostly for ornamental purposes. When the term "cedar tree" is used to describe native trees of America, it refers to a group of conifers or "cone bearing" trees that have very fragrant wood.
False cedar trees that are native to America are the eastern and western cedars, the red cedar and the Spanish cedar. However, the Missouri Department of Conservation reveals that the red cedar, common to the eastern part of the United States, is actually a Juniper. The tree is bright green in the summer and copper in the winter, with blue berries that are often used as a flavoring for gin. It is also important to note that the arborvitae is also referred to as a "white cedar" which is slow growing, dense and found in many backyards across the country.
The three true cedar varieties have rich, brown colored bark and ascending branches with pine needles in various shades of green. The trees can grow to glorious heights of approximately 40 feet and some have trunks as thick as eight feet in diameter. The seed cones of true cedar trees are usually produced every other year. False cedars, like the true cedars average 40 feet in height but according to Nearctica.com the red cedar has been known to grow as tall as 100 feet. The trunk of false cedars are approximately three feet in diameter and scaly. The needles are varying shades of green and elongated.
According to Blue Planet Biomes, there are only three varieties of true cedars in the world; the Lebanon cedar, the Mount Atlas cedar and the Deodar cedar which is native to the Himalayas. The forests that once contained these great cedars have been stripped by loggers of ancient and modern times leaving very few left to be admired. However, because of the rich history that these trees possess many have been planted and cultivated worldwide by people who wish to see the trees live on.
The cedar tree was held very dear by the Ancient Egyptians who extracted its precious oils for the purposes of mummification but cedar oil serves another purpose that has stood the test of time. The Natural Resources Group (NRG) explains that event the ancients were aware of the repellent nature of cedar oil and utilized to keep tombs insect free. The Native Americans used cedar oil to repel mosquitoes and the early Americans used to use cedar oil to protect against common pests. In modern times, cedar oil is still used to keep moths away from wardrobes and ticks and fleas away from pets. It is also used to prevent the destruction of crops by insects and as a fly repellent for horses and other livestock.
Humans have utilized cedar trees over the centuries for boats, boxes, bowls and baskets. Cedar has even been used to make tools and weapons and was an important source of fuel for early civilizations. According to Lakhota.com, the bark of the cedar tree was even also been mentioned in the Bible in reference to King Solomon and his importation of cedar wood from Lebanon to build his temple.