Cedar is a popular softwood belonging to a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae (same as pine). Different species of cedar are found in different parts of the world, with the majority being sourced from the mountains of the Himalayas. Despite being a softwood, cedar has good durability and strength, which makes it suitable for a range of indoor and outdoor applications.
If you are here, it means you are looking to know about the different types of cedar. Well, before we move further, we’d like to clarify that not all wood species being sold in the name of cedar are true, especially the ones native to North America. There are true cedars, and then there are false cedars.
Only true cedars belong to the Cedrus genus in the Pinaceae family. There are four known species:
- Cedrus atlantica
- Cedrus brevifolia
- Cedrus deodara
- Cedrus libani
- Alaskan Yellow
- Eastern Red
- Northern White
- Port Orford
- Siberian Pine
- Western Red
Some known types of false cedar are as follows:
Introduction to Cedar Wood
It is known to be a beautiful and incredibly useful timber with excellent physical characteristics. The conifer trees of cedar have needle-shaped leaves, which are evergreen and commonly arranged into spirals. While the wood is light brownish and resinous, the tree bark is slightly darker. There are cones instead of fruits.
It is an important commercial timber prized for its attractive appearance and robustness. Applications include but are not limited to furniture, plywood, boat building, siding, and cigar boxes, among others.
Types of Cedar Wood
Here’s all you need to know about the different types of cedar wood. Most of the true cedars grow in the Himalayan and Mediterranean regions. False cedars are generally native to North America, among other regions
1. Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)
Atlas (Cedrus atlantica) is native to the mountainous regions of Morocco and Algeria, with its trees growing 65-115 ft tall with a 3-5 ft trunk. With an average dried weight of 33.0 lbs/ft3, it features a light reddish-brown heartwood with straight grain and moderate workability. Considered very durable with good insect resistance, it’s used for veneer, cabinetry, and construction. Limited availability in North America; harvested storm-damaged or ornamental trees are commonly sold as craft blanks.
2. Cyprian Cedar (Cedrus brevifolia)
The Cyprus Cedar, scientifically named Cedrus brevifolia (sometimes considered a subspecies of Cedrus libani) comes from a tree that grows up to 50-65 ft tall with a 3-4 ft trunk. With anatomical similarities to Cedrus libani, it shares characteristics like light reddish brown heartwood, straight grain, and easy workability. Offering excellent durability and insect resistance, it’s commonly used for veneer, cabinetry, turned objects, boxes, chests, and construction. Limited commercial availability can lead to higher prices.
3. Deodar Cedar Tree (Cedrus Deodara)
The Deodar Cedar Tree (Cedrus deodara) is an iconic evergreen native to the Himalayan region, known for its gigantic size and elegant appearance. Reaching heights of 50-200 ft, it boasts sweeping branches with needle-like leaves. The tree’s name, “Deodar,” translates to “timber of the gods” in Sanskrit, reflecting its tremendous cultural significance. The durable wood, with a distinctive fragrance, is commonly used in construction and ornamental woodworking. Recognized for its strength and adaptability, the Deodar Cedar thrives in diverse climates.
4. Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)
The Cedar of Lebanon, scientifically known as Cedrus libani, mainly grows in mountainous Mediterranean regions, with its trees reaching 100-130 ft in height with a 5-7 ft trunk diameter. Weighing 32 lbs/ft3, the heartwood features a light reddish-brown color with a straight grain and occasional irregularities. With excellent durability and insect resistance, it’s easy to work with but may pose challenges in areas with knots. Available in its native regions, it is used for veneer, cabinetry, construction, and turned objects.
False cedars include wood species that are not in the genus Cedrus but have either looks or physical properties similar to cedar. These are commonly found and used throughout North America and have immense commercial importance.
5. Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis)
Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis), also known as Nootka Cypress, is native to the northwest coast of North America, with trees reaching 100-120 ft with a 4-6 ft trunk. Weighing 31 lbs/ft3, its heartwood is a light yellow that darkens with age. Grain is usually straight, with a uniform medium to fine texture. Prized for its durability against decay and insects, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is easy to work but may produce tear-out due to occasional wavy grain. Limited in supply, it is prized for carving, boatbuilding, siding, flooring, decking, construction, outdoor furniture, musical instruments, boxes, chests, and other utility applications.
6. Bermuda Cedar (Juniperus bermudiana)
Bermuda Cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) is a distinctive evergreen tree native to Bermuda. Historically abundant, it played a crucial role in the island’s ecology and economy. Known for its aromatic, reddish-brown wood, Bermuda Cedar was traditionally used in shipbuilding, construction, and furniture making. Unfortunately, the species faced severe decline due to overharvesting and pest infestation over time. Beyond its economic and cultural significance, Bermuda Cedar is a symbol of Bermuda’s natural heritage, representing the island’s resilience and ongoing commitment to its environmental stewardship.
7. Eastern Red Cedar Tree (Juniperus virginiana)
The Aromatic Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), also known as Eastern Redcedar, is native to Eastern North America, with trees being 100-115 ft tall with a 3-4 ft trunk. Weighing 33 lbs/ft3, it features reddish or violet-brown heartwood and a pale yellow sapwood. Known for excellent resistance to decay and insects, it’s commonly used for fence posts without pre-treatment. Though generally easy to work with, it may dull cutters due to a high silica content. The distinct cedar scent makes it a popular choice for closet and chest linings. Other uses include outdoor furniture, carvings, and birdhouses.
8. Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)
Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), also known as California White Cedar, is native to Western North America, growing 65-100 ft tall with a 3-5 ft trunk. Weighing 24 lbs/ft3, its heartwood is light to medium reddish-brown, while the sapwood is light tan to off-white. Despite occasional fungal decay instances, it’s durable to very durable against decay and is often used for fence posts. With straight grain and a uniform texture, it’s easy to work with and holds paint well. Known for its unique spicy odor, it’s primarily used for pencil making. Other common uses include Venetian blinds, construction lumber, sheathing, siding, chests, and outdoor furniture.
9. Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
The Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), also called Eastern Arborvitae, is native to Northeastern North America. The trees are 50-65 ft tall with a 1.3-2 ft trunk. Weighing 22.0 lbs/ft3, it features light reddish-brown heartwood and a nearly white, narrow sapwood. Known for durability and resistance against decay, termites, and powder post beetles, it is commonly used for exterior purposes like fences and shingles. Despite being soft and less strong, it works well with tools and finishes. Available in smaller sizes, it’s reasonably priced, and sustainability is not a major concern.
10. Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), also known as Lawson’s Cypress, is found in the Pacific Northwest, with trees growing 150-200 ft tall with a 4-6 ft trunk. With an average dried weight of 29 lbs/ft3, it has light yellowish-brown heartwood and pale sapwood, which darken with age or weather to a gray hue. Acknowledged for its durability against decay and insects, it was historically used for battery separators. The wood’s straight grain makes it suitable for arrow shafts. It’s easy to work and holds paint well. Limited availability in the market drives prices high. It’s commonly used in musical instruments, boatbuilding, decking, and various millwork applications.
11. Siberian Pine (Pinus sibirica)
Siberian Pine (Pinus sibirica), native to Russia, is a tough coniferous tree with distinct characteristics. Typically reaching 80 ft in height, the tree has slender, straight trunks and delicate, flexible branches. Known for its durability and lightweight, the Siberian Pine heartwood color ranges from pale yellow to light brown. The timber is valued for its high resin content, which is the reason for its resistance against decay and insects. Beyond its economic importance for timber manufacturing, the tree’s seeds are edible and prized for their nutritional value. This wood type plays a vital role in Siberian ecosystems and also has cultural importance, featuring prominently in traditional crafts, art and construction.
12. Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata)
Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata), also known as Cedro, is native to Central and South America and the Caribbean. It’s also grown on plantations around the world. The tree reaches 65-100 ft with a 3-5 ft trunk. The average dried weight is around 29 lbs/ft3 and the heartwood is light pinkish to reddish-brown which darkens with age. Grain is straight or slightly interlocked, with moderate texture. Ranging from durable to moderately durable, it resists decay and termite attacks and has excellent weather resistance. While easy to work, its low density may require extra sanding. Favored for its distinct cedar scent, Spanish Cedar is commonly used in veneer, cabinetry, musical instruments, furniture, humidors, and boatbuilding, with availability in the low to moderate price range.
13. Western Red Cedar (Thuja Plicata)
Western Red (Thuja Plicata), also known as Giant Arborvitae, is native to the Pacific Northwest, with trees growing 165-200 ft tall with a 7-13 ft trunk. Weighing 23.0 lbs/ft3, its heartwood color varies from reddish to pinkish brown hues and has streaks. It has a straight grain and a coarse texture with moderate luster. Recognized for good durability and decay resistance, it’s susceptible to insect attacks. Easy to work with but prone to dents, it sands unevenly due to density differences. Gluing and finishing are fairly easy, though iron-based fasteners may stain. While construction-grade lumber is moderately priced, higher grades with clear, straight grain and fewer knots can be more expensive. Common uses include furniture, shingles, siding, boatbuilding, and musical instruments.
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