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Atlas cedar

An Atlas cedar graces the White House South Lawn in Washington, DC. When President Carter designed a tree house for his daughter Amy, it was built in this tree.
Atlas Cedar at Kew Gardens

About Kew's Atlas cedar trees

You can see dozens of these trees in Kew Gardens. In fact the Broad Walk is lined on both sides with them. We keep a close eye on them because as cedars get older, they can become dangerous. Water, trapped between large branches and the trunk, encourages the wood to rot. These rotten branches can fall without warning, so once a tree reaches around 150 years of age, they are often felled to be replaced by younger ones.


Take a closer look

  • You can tell the Atlas cedar apart from other cedars by the bluish tinge of its foliage. Also, look out for its rising branches – if you can remember ALD, you should be able to think of Atlas ascending, Lebanon level and Deodar (Cedrus deodara) drooping.
  • See if you can find some cedar cones. The cones of the Atlas cedar differ from those of the cedar of Lebanon and Deodar cedar in that they have a hollow top. However, all cedar cones sit upright on the branch, are barrel-shaped and once ripe, lose their scales to leave nothing but a vertical woody spike.
  • Cedar leaves – or needles – are noticeably different to other conifers. They are arranged in small rosettes and each set remains on the tree for three or four years before falling off.

Tree biology

Although the Atlas cedar flourishes in hotter, drier conditions than many conifers, it can survive where the weather is wet and cold, where the soil is low in nutrients and even in polluted areas. It grows fast too – one specimen planted near Powis Castle in Wales grew nearly 25 m in less than a hundred years.

Cultivation and uses

These trees, like the closely related cedar of Lebanon and Deodar cedar, are very popular in parks and gardens across the UK. You may think the Atlas cedar is smaller, but in fact it can easily match the size of its relatives. It was introduced to the UK 200 years later than them so its specimens haven’t reached the same heights.

Quick facts

  • Scientific name: Cedrus atlantica
  • Family: Pinaceae
  • Place of origin: The Atlas mountains of Algeria and Morocco, north Africa.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Date planted: Unknown
  • Height: 25.7 m