The Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) is a needled evergreen tree that is native to North Africa and earned its common name from the Atlas mountains of Morocco and Algeria. Some of its sub-varieties, such as the common Blue Atlas Cedar, are best known as ornamental trees in the United States.
The Atlas Cedar has thin needles that spread off the branch in small bunches and are about one or two centimeters long. Seed cones are egg-shaped and fairly smooth, looking like they've been woven out of thin wicker, about two to three inches in size which turn from green to brown. On most varieties the needles are a rich Christmas green color, with the exception of the Blue Atlas Cedar where they're a silver-blue. The trees grow in a wide based pyramid shape with bases between 30 and 40 feet and heights of 40 to 60 feet. Branches don't grow in a regular pattern and the shape of the tree can be fairly irregular.
Growth and Care
Atlas Cedars prefer moderate climates as they're not particularly fond of the cold, which often leads to damage in marginal climate areas. They grow best (although always fairly slowly, at about 12 inches per year) in anything from partial shade to full sun and if they're rooted deep enough that can stand little water, wind and excessive heat. Acidic, moist soil areas are best but it can tolerate other types (especially with fertilizer). When picking a fertilizer for the tree, you want one which is formulated for woody growth, not foliage growth. When thinking ahead into long term care, keep in mind that you can keep snow damage to a minimum by pruning long branches early in its life. Other problems which plague the tree can include borers, root rot, sapsuckers and weevils.
Atlas Cedar wood is often used in construction of furniture and railroad ties. The oil is heavily cedar scented, which keeps away bugs. It was brought to the United States in 1845 as an ornamental tree and has failed to become popular. In its natural habitat in Morocco, the area is currently lacking a ready water supply and the trees are suffering the effects of sapsuckers.
Cedar, Atlas. The National Arbor Day Foundation. 15 Aug 2004 <http://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/TreeDetail.cfm?ID=161>.
TreeHelp.com: Atlas Cedar Treehelp.com. 15 Aug 2004 <http://www.treehelp.com/trees/cedar/cedrus-atlantica.asp>.