Himalayan cedar cedrus deodara

The Himalayan Cedar: Cedrus deodara

While maybe not as famous as the Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani ), the Himalayan cedar  holds its own in its territory. Just as tall and straight, with thin spreading branches and fragrant cones, this tree caught my attention both upwards of Kathwar village in Himachal pradesh and Landour in Mussoorie.  I did initially confuse it with the Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) but after observing the tree closely realized that the needles were shorter and branches spread out differently in the Deodar.


The thin spreading branches of the Himalayan Cedar at Landour, Mussoorie
The thin spreading branches of the Himalayan Cedar at Landour, Mussoorie

Botanical name : Cedrus deodara

Common name  : Himalayan Cedar, Deodar (Deodar seems to sound like Dev-dhar which literally means carrying or carries the gods)

Local Names      : Hindi, Gujarati Devdaar, Sanskrit Devdaaru

Description       : The Cedrus deodara is a large evergreen coniferous tree growing in the 1500–3200 m altitude range. It reaches heights of about 40–60 meters and occasionally reaches 90 meters. Its trunk can grow up to 3 meters in diameter. It has a conical crown with level branches and drooping branchlets.

Leaf                : The leaves are needle-like, mostly 2.5–5 cm long, occasionally up to 7 cm long, slender (1 mm thick), borne singly on long shoots, and in dense clusters of 20-30 on short shoots; they vary from bright green to glaucous blue-green in colour.

Flower/fruit   : The female cones are barrel-shaped, 7–13 cm long and 5–9 cm broad, and disintegrate when mature (in 12 months) to release its winged seeds. The male cones are 4–6 cm long, and shed their pollen in autumn.

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The interior of one of the rooms of an old Cedar house in Kathwar Village in Himachal Pradesh

Uses      : Deodar is in great demand as building material because of its durability, rot-resistant character and fine, close grain, which is capable of taking a high polish. Its historical use to construct temples and is well recorded. Its rot-resistant character also makes it an ideal wood for constructing the famous houseboats of Srinagar in Kashmir. During the British colonial period in India, Deodar wood was used extensively for the construction of barracks, public buildings, bridges, canals and railway cars.

The inner wood is aromatic and used to make incense. It is also distilled into an essential oil. As insects avoid this tree, the essential oil is used as insect repellent on the feet of horses, cattle and camels. It also has antifungal properties and has some potential for control of  deterioration of spices (fungal) during storage. Cedarwood oil, extracted from the herb, is used for catarrhal conditions of the respiratory tract. It is an expectorant. It is also useful for ulcers and skin diseases. The outer bark and

Green Cedar cones near Char Dukan, Landour (Mussoorie) in August
Green Cedar cones near Char Dukan, Landour (Mussoorie) in August

stem are astringent. Its biomedical actions are reported to be carminative and  antispasmodic. It promotes sweating, works as a diuretic and is also used as an aromatic. In Ayurveda, the Deodar extracts are reported to increase digestive function, remove toxins from the bowel, alleviate coughing, and cure skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. Cedar oil is often used for its aromatic properties, especially in aromatherapy. It has a characteristic woody smell which may change somewhat in the course of drying out. The extracted crude oils are often yellowish or darker in color. It is used in soaps, perfumes, household sprays, floor polishes and insecticides and is also used as a clearing oil when working with microscopes. The leaves are bitter, acrid, thermogenic and are useful in inflammations and in the treatment of tubercular glands.

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