Different types of cedar trees are native to the Himalayan region, and they also grow very nicely in the Mediterranean and several other parts of the world that have mild to moderate planting zones. These trees are evergreen, and they have needles that grow throughout the year as one of their defining qualities. The needles also offer a very intense and strong scent.
However, did you know that types of cedar trees actually fall into different categories? The True Cedar has four broad types. If you look at the False Cedar category, you’ll find three types. We’re going to go over several different types of cedar trees, and you can see which ones you want to incorporate into your landscape design below.
True Cedars Versus False Cedars
The true types of cedar trees like the Atlas cedar fall into the Cedrus genus. If you look at false cedars, they fall into the cupressaceae family. For example, the Eastern Red Cedar and the Western Red Cedar are actually false cedars that belong to the cypress family. Many people mistakenly think that they’re true cedars.
If you want to tell the difference between true and false cedars, you can do so by l booking at the evergreen needle leaves. True cedars that are in the Cedrus genus will have woody pegs with needle clusters. The false cedars that are cypress trees will have soft, feather-like or scaly leaves.
Cedar DSCF9374 by Peter Birch / CC BY-NC 2.0
How to Correctly Identify Cedar Trees
Since you get pine-like needles with your types of cedar trees, it seems like it would be easy to point to cedar and claim that it’s one of the pine tree types. However, there are three ways that you can identify a cedar tree, including:
- Bark Has a Limited Color Palette – When you compare them to prices and pines, types of cedar trees have limited bark colors. You’ll find maroon, light brown, and yellow-brown. The bark is also much lighter than spruce or pine.
- Cones Sit at the Top – Another defining feature with types of cedar trees is their cone placement. Instead of being spread out throughout the tree, you’ll find most of them at the top of the tree. They’re medium-sized, scaly, and they fall when the tree matures.
- Needles Grow in Fine Clusters – Finally, look at the needles. Spruce and pine trees have finger-like extensions with their needles while cedar has finer needles. The needles generally cluster along the tree’s branches to create a very dense arrangement. You’ll find blue tinges when the trees are young that slowly fade to a rich green as the tree matures.
When it comes to a botanical classification, a true type of cedar tree is Cedrus. False or faux types of cedar trees come from cypresses or junipers. If you look at the general classification, this tree gets clustered under the family Pinaceae right along firc, spruces, pines, and junipers.
General Information About Types of Cedar Trees
Cedarwood is a wood type that comes from different types of trees called cedars. Different types of cedar trees are cultivated in different regions throughout the world, and they have various purposes and uses. This is a coniferous tree, and this means that they offer needle-like leaves that can range from an intense blue-green to a vibrant green. They’re Christmas-style trees that can easily get over 100-feet high or more. You get brown seed cones that take around a year to reach full maturity, and they split to let the seeds go into the air when they mature.
Cedar wood has intense aromatic qualities too that makes it extremely popular, and this is why you’ll find them used in lotions, creams, essential oils, and more. Cedarwood is an active ingredient in cedarwood essential oil, and there are several health benefits attached to it. Using this type of essential oil has numerous health benefits associated with it too, including relieving fatigue and stress.
The woody, rich scent is very popular for aromatherapy, and it can help improve sleep quality, manage chronic pain, soothe sore joints, and treat migraines or headaches. Today, how we use cedar wood greatly differs from ancient uses. Phoenicia, a Mediterranean civilization, extracted cedar to build ships and houses. They also believed that cedar groves were the houses of gods, so they burned cedar during religious ceremonies.
14 Different Types of Cedar Trees
There are many types of cedar trees available, but we’re going to outline the 14 most popular. This way, you’ll get a good understanding of what they offer, what they look like, and much more.
1. Alaska Cedar
Better known as Yellow Cedar, this type of cedar tree is very abundant in the Pacific Northwest Regions of the United States. It extends from Alaska up to the Pacific Northwest and into British Columbia. The trees are dense and tough, and this is the exact opposite of the wood you get in generic types of cedar trees. The wood has very tightly knit rings with a pretty yellow coloring, and the rings showcase the fact that this tree grows very slowly.
This type of cedar tree was very popular with American builders to help them create sustainable and light bridges, decks, and interior panels. The wood was also extremely popular with famed musicians because it has stunning sound quality. While you’ll usually find this wood in yellow hues, you can find more creamy variants with a deep brown steak. When they process the lumber, the wooden machines put a huge amount of strain on the logs to create this marking.
Quinault Rain Forest by Tjflex2 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2. Atlas Cedar
This type of cedar tree is a taller coniferous tree that is also called the Cedrus Atlantica. They can easily get between 40 and 60-feet high at full maturity, and they come with a striking trunk diameter that ranges from 5 to 6-feet. You’ll find them growing in large groves in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, and they feature very moderate and slow growth habits. You’ll see a very striking pyramid-like shape that lends a very open and large silhouette. They have to have at least partial shade if not full shade for consistent growth.
They do best in well-watered but moist soil, and they can survive harsh winds or drought very easily. However, this type of cedar tree is more likely to have pest problems. So, they’ll need occasional pesticide applications to avoid infestations. You’ll also have to fertilize this tree to help boost their growth. Trimming them when they’re young can lead to even and proper growth, and it can help prevent heavy leaf shedding. You also want ample space around them since they grow best in larger areas.
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar Tree by Jim, the Photographer / CC BY 2.0
3. Cyprian Cedar
This type of cedar tree is one of the most unique. As you may have guessed from the name, they grow primarily along the Mountainous regions that cover Turkey and Cyprus along with parts of Syria. They’re often called Yellow Cedar, and it’s very popular because it has an umbrella-esque crown with tiny leaves.
In some areas, it’s common for people to compare this type of cedar tree to the Cedar of Lebanon because they both share so many similarities. With this being said, it’s important to note that both trees have varying physical attributes to them. This one has rounded, smaller leaves while the Cedar of Lebanon has more elongated ones. You will need to leave plenty of space for this tree to grow and spread out to keep it healthy in your landscape design.
Cyprus Cedar – Cedrus brevifolia by Hornbeam Arts / CC BY-NC 2.0
4. Deodar Cedar
The scientific name for this type of cedar tree is Cedrus Deodara, and it’s one of the coniferous plants that has a pretty weeping habit. The name for this tree comes from the Sanskrit word devardaru, and this loosely means the “timber of the gods.” You’ll commonly find this cedar tree type in gardens, parks, or open spaces. They have very beautiful leaves, and this allows them to add a nice focal point to your landscaping. This is also the national tree in certain countries, and it has earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
If you’re not sure how to identify this type of cedar tree, you’re in luck. You can easily pick it out due to its physical attributes. For example, they showcase coniferous, long needles that are between one and two inches long and feature greenish or blue hues. Just like many other cedar types, they all require as much exposure to the sun as possible, and they are best planted in sandy, moist soil. They can get up to 50-feet tall under the correct growing conditions.
Deodar Cedar by Seven Haslam / CC BY-SA 2.0
5. Eastern Red Cedar
The Eastern Cedar falls into the Cypress family, and it has a scientific name as the Juniperus Virginiana. You’ll find this type of cedar tree primarily grown in the United States in the eastern regions, and they can easily top 120-feet tall when they reach full maturity. However, they’ve been known to get over 320-feet high in excellent growing conditions.
This is widely known as the aromatic cedar because it offers a very woody, intense scent. You use this wood to create a range of essential oils that you can use to line moderately-sized drawers or closets to prevent insects from infesting the area. It also produces some of the most durable and versatile wood variants out of any type of cedar tree, and it’s popular in siding, flooring, and furniture applications.
Eastern Red Cedar by Drew Avery / CC BY 2.0
6. Eastern White Cedar
This is a soft type of cedar tree that has a light brown coloring that you’ll find growing in the Northeastern parts of the United States and parts of Canada. Just like other trees that fall into the same category, this cedar tree has a reputation for helping with asthma and some medical conditions that can cause convulsions. It’s not as dense as other options on the list, and this means that this tree is much more vulnerable to damage due to exposure to adverse weather conditions or an insect infestation.
7. Incense Cedar
This type of cedar tree is native to the United States, and you’ll find it growing in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Just like several other cedar tree types, you get a broad base that is up to 15 feet around, and the tree will get up to 75 feet tall at full maturity with the correct growing conditions. You get reddish-maroon coloring for the bark on this tree, and they also have very bright green needles.
This particular tree gets the name because it has a very strong scent that it releases during the warmer months. It’s a very tough type of tree that can easily survive in poor soil or with exposure to adverse weather, and it can also do very well in drought conditions or dry and arid desert-style landscaping.
Incense Cedar – Calocedrus – 20130412 by MomentsForZen / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
8. Japanese Cedar
This is Japan’s national tree, and it falls into the Cupressaceae family. You can find a huge range of cultivars that allow this type of cedar tree to fit beautifully in your landscaping without taking over, and there are even more compact types available like Globosa Nana. If you water it routinely, this compact tree will get between four to eight feet tall at full maturity.
This tree is native to Japan, and it does best when you plant it outdoors in zones five to seven. You should give it a decent amount of space unless you pick out a more compact cultivar so it doesn’t crowd everything. It loves full to partial sun, and it does well in a huge range of soil conditions without any damage.
Japanese Cedar by Yamanaka Tamaki / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
9. Lebanon Cedar
With the scientific name of Cedrus Libani, this type of cedar tree is native to Turkey and Lebanon. It also functions as Lebanon’s national tree. Since it has such immense prominence, you can find it growing in Afghanistan and Syria too. Just like several other cedar tree variants, you’ll get a tree with elongated leaves and a pyramid-like shape when it matures. They can get over 120 feet tall in the correct growing conditions, so they create an imposing look.
There is also significant historical relevance with this type of cedar tree. Multiple records state that this tree was imported to Egypt to create boats during King Sherefu’s reign. During this time, noblemen from the Mesopotamian and Byblos regions would make the trip to Lebanon to get these trees. They’re also found referenced in multiple scriptures. Since they offer gorgeously fragrant wood, it’s a popular tree to make buildings in Israel. It’s widely believed that King David used it to build his palaces, and Solomon is believed to have used this tree to build his palace and temple.
Cedar Tree by Paul Saad / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
10. Northern White Cedar
This type of cedar tree is also called Arbor Vitae, or the Tree of Life. You can find this tree growing in huge groves in the Southeastern regions of Canada and in the United States in the Northeastern and North regions. The logs or wood from this tree are much lighter than the Red Cedar’s logs or wood. This is one of the biggest reasons why it’s so popular to work with. The lightweight structure allows you to cut through this wood without having powerful tools on hand like backer boards or cutters.
You’ll get stunning and beautiful furniture with this type of cedar tree. You can easily identify it by the creamy, thin sapwood that covers the inner area of the wood that is also light brown. It’s hardy and beautiful, and it’s durable enough to survive an insect infestation without a huge amount of damage. It’s also decay-free, and this makes it a top choice when it comes to picking out wood for outdoor construction projects like decking, posts, and other structures.
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) by Joshua Mayer / CC BY-SA 2.0
11. Port Orford Cedar
You can grow this fragrant type of cedar in well-drained but moist soil that has an average nutrient content. It’s a part of the Cupressaceae family, and it will eventually grow into a very narrow pyramidal shape when it reaches full maturity. You can also pick out dwarf cultivars to better fit into your landscape design without needing a huge amount of space to spread out.
This cedar tree is native to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, and it does best if you live in growing zones five to eight. In the wild, it can easily top 200-feet high at full maturity. You’ll want to plant it in an area that gets full to partial sun, and it prefers full sunlight.
Port Orford Cedar by Zachary Collier / CC BY 2.0
12. Siberian Cedar
This type of cedar tree is another member of the pine genus and family, and it’s the one type that is most clearly a faux cedar. It’s a very hardy tree, and this makes it an excellent choice to use as an evergreen conifer if you live in colder climates. It also has pine nuts located inside the pine cones that you can eat. The size of this tree makes it best suitable for larger landscape designs.
This tree is native to Siberia, so you can see why it does very well in colder climates. In fact, it grows best in zones one to six. It can get over 40 feet high at full maturity with an impressive spread, and it likes slightly sandy and well-drained soil. As for sun, you’ll want to give it full, direct sunlight exposure for at least six to eight hours every day.
Parc de Carlese I by Francis Lenn / CC BY 2.0
13. Spanish Cedar
This type of cedar tree is found growing abundantly in Central and South African regions, and it has a scientific name of Cedrela Oderate. This is an extremely lightweight tree, and this makes it immensely popular amongst wood cutting professionals or builders who use it for a huge range of construction projects like building cabinets, window frames, centerpieces, and tables. However, you won’t find this tree easily in US or European-based countries.
It’s still a very popular option for lining humidors. Due to the beautiful natural oil content with the natural resistance to pests and moisture damage, it stays a top pick amongst woodworkers. You’ll see several straight-lined areas that machines can cut through easily, and the heartwood is either brown or pink before it darkens to deeper colors. It’s a very versatile and durable pick that can resist decay, insects, and pests, and this makes it easy to maintain.
starr-030807-0044-Cedrela_odorata-habit-Hana_Hwy-Maui by Forest and Kim Starr / CC BY 2.0
14. Western Red Cedar
The final type of cedar tree on the list is the Western Red Cedar, and you’ll find it growing in the Northwestern parts of Canada and the United States. It’s best defined as being a Cypress tree, so it makes sense that it belongs to the Cupressaceae family. This tree can grow to be very large at 200 feet or more at full maturity, and they can survive for up to 1,000 years under the correct growing conditions.
You’ll get extremely dense green foliage with this tree. It also releases a distinct and subtle scent that smells slightly like pineapple. It’s pest and decay-resistant, and you’ll typically find this tree used in outdoor construction projects. A few popular applications include decks, fences, smaller sheds, and siding.
Western Red Cedar by Colin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Four Popular Types of Cedar Wood
Since you can choose from so many types of cedar trees with varying colors, sizes, and forms, it makes sense that the wood you get from the various species doesn’t look the same. We’ve picked out four popular types and described them for you below.
Alaska Cedar Wood
Better known as yellow cedar, this type of cedar tree can be found from British Columbia to Alaska. The wood you can collect from this species is extremely dense and hard, and this sets it apart from most other types of cedar wood. It has a very distinct yellow coloring with tight rights that showcase the tree’s moderate or slow growth rate. Most people use this cedar to create very durable but light decks, deck railings, interior paneling, and canoe paddles.
This wood is also popular due to the fact that it has a fantastic sound quality, so it’s commonly used to make musical instruments. You will mainly find it in a yellow color, but it can also have a very creamy white coloring with darker brown streaks. This is an eye-catching sheen that happens during processing.
Eastern Red Cedar Wood
The strong, woody smell to this wood led many people to call it aromatic cedar. It also produces a host of organic oils that you line your drawers or closets with to keep insects away because they don’t like the smell. This wood is easy to work with when you use your hands or power tools because it’s not too heavy or too light. You will want to wear gloves and a respirator when you work with it to avoid respiratory issues or rashes down the line. It’s popular in the stationary industry and with souvenir manufacturing companies.
The heartwood of this type of cedar tree has a reddish-pink tone with either deep brownish-red or purplish streaks on the outside. If you look at the sapwood of this tree, you’ll see a very light coloring that is almost white with knots all over the wood. It does best in open regions or you may have issues with the finish on it. So, if you make drawers, furniture, or closets out of this wood, you can’t keep it in a confined space. You should also use lacquer or polyurethane to finish it.
Northern White Cedar Wood
Better known as the Tree of Life, this tree is native to Southeast Canada and along the northeastern portion of the United States. The wooden logs you get from this tree are lighter than the red cedar, and this makes it convenient and easy to work with. The wood is also easier to cut without the use of heavy-duty power tools like backer boards. However, it can cause rashes or respiratory issues if you’re not careful when you work with it.
You can easily identify this type of cedar tree but the line of white sapwood that surrounds the tree’s lighter brown inner layers. There are also knots. Like most cedar trees, this one resists pest infestations and decay to make it durable. It’s a great choice for outdoor projects like decking, boats, posts, and shingles. There are also many popular types of cultivars available, including Booth Globe, Compacta, Douglasii Pyramidalis, Emerald Green, Ericoides, Hetz Junior, hovey, Lutea, Nigra, and Techny.
Cedar Cross-Sections by William Avery Hudson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Spanish Cedar Wood
The scientific name for this wood is Cedrela Odorata, and it’s native to South and Central America. It’s a relative to mahogany, and it has a lightweight feel that makes it a popular pick for builders and woodcutters for all types of projects and construction needs like cupboards, cabinets, windows, and furniture. It’s challenging to source in the United States or Europe, but it’s one of the most sought-after wood types to line a cigar humidor.
It has a very pleasant smell associated with it, and it has a natural moisture and pest-resistance to make it more durable. This is a taller type of cedar tree that features straight-lined woods that are easy to machine and cut. The heartwood is reddish-brown or it has a pink-toned hue that gradually darkens over time.
Western Red Cedar Wood
The final cedar wood on the list is the Western Red Cedar, and wood from this tree is commonly found in siding, decking, shingle, shed, or other outdoor structure projects. It’s so popular for outdoor construction projects because it can repel water and resist decay with exposure to the elements, and this allows it to last longer. It’s a member of the Cypress family, and can get up to an impressive 200 feet tall at full maturity with a trunk diameter that stretches 10 feet wide.
The wood on this tree is very lightweight with a low density, and this makes it easy to shape and cut as you work with it. You can use power or hand tools, but it can cause breathing problems and rashes if you’re not careful when you work with it. If you’re extremely sensitive, it may be a good idea to hire a contractor to cut it for you. It has a pretty reddish-brown coloring with hints of pink. It also has a very thin white sapwood, but this vanishes during processing. It does retain knots, especially if it’s a lower grade.
We’ve outlined 14 different types of cedar trees for you, and you can now take this information and see which trees will do best for your upcoming projects or out in your landscape. If you’re careful, you can get a gorgeous centerpiece that lasts for decades.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.