Cedar, any of a large number of trees having fragrant, durable wood. True cedars are conifers (cone-bearing trees) of the genus Cedrus. True cedars include the cedar of Lebanon, the deodar cedar, and the Atlas cedar.
The cedar of Lebanon is native to Asia Minor and adjacent areas along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was once used for furniture and paneling but is now becoming rare. The wood of the deodar cedar of India and of the Atlas cedar of North Africa is widely used in cabinetwork. The resin of these cedars has been used for embalming.
Several North American conifers are also called cedars because of their fragrant wood. Among these are the eastern red cedar, actually a species of juniper, and the white cedar of the Atlantic seaboard, which is a cypress. Eastern red cedar is used in making pencil casings and for lining chests and closets. Cedar chests and closets are naturally mothproof because of their odor. Cedar oil for medicine and perfumes is obtained from the wood and leaves. White cedar is used for fences, boats, and interior finishing. The giant western red cedar of the western United States and Canada is an arborvitae. The wood is very durable and is used for shingles, utility poles, and fenceposts. The Port Orford cedar is a cypress.
The West Indian cedar is not a conifer. It is related to the mahogany tree, and was once widely used to make cigar boxes.
The cedar of Lebanon is Cedrus libani; the deodar is C. deodara; the Atlas is C. atlantica. The eastern red cedar is Juniperus virginiana; the white, Chamaecyparis thyoides; the western red cedar is Thuja plicata. All are of the pine family, Pinaceae.
The West Indian cedar is Cedrela odorata of the mahogany family, Meliaceae.