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Cedar of Lebanon

Cedrus libani

The tree that draws the most attention in the Park is the Cedar of Lebanon in the west triangle, and there is a slightly smaller one in the east triangle as well. Their triangular, or pyramidal, profile and deep green needles make them stand out in all seasons. The Wikipedia entry is here.
Cedar of Lebanon is a species of cedar native to the Mediterranean region, in Lebanon, western Syria, and south-central Turkey, with varieties (which some botanists consider separate species) in southwest Turkey, Cyprus, and the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa.
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The Cedar of Lebanon near 19th Street, pitch pine in right foreground. January photo.
Cedar of Lebanon factoids:
  • Evergreen (most needles persist for more than one year)
  • Coniferous (bears cones)
  • it bears male and female cones on the same tree
  • Is on the national flag of Lebanon
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Needles in bundles from tiny stems off the main branches from July photo.
Male cones don't stay on the tree for long after appearing in early September. Rounder female cones appear in late September and stay on the tree until they mature as woody cones. They open from top to bottom, dispersing ovoid seeds attached to wedge-shaped wings.
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The other Cedar of Lebanon in the center of the east triangle in July
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Male cone of Cedar of Lebanon
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Female cone
For more on cones see black pine page
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Male cones festooning the Cedar of Lebanon in the west triangle in late September.
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Close up of male cones in late September on tree in west triangle. The brown cone at left in the grouping is from last year and has dispersed its pollen.
Botany 101 Bonus
A Cedar of Lebanon can live to be 1,000 years old, growing taller and thicker for most of that lifespan. Yet it starts as a tiny seed. Contemplate this question for a moment: where does the mass of a tree come from? From the soil?

The best thing we can pass on to our children is not all of the answers in life, but the ability to understand a question and know how to find the answer. Even recent MIT graduates can be flummoxed by the question about the source of the tree's mass when confronted with a dry log of wood (see three-minute video here). Aristotle believed the mass came only from the soil. In the 17th century experiments showed that very little soil mass was lost when a tree grew in a potted container. The mass in that experiment was thought to come from the water used to water the tree. In the 18th century, it was postulated that the bulk of the mass of a tree comes from CO2, i.e. out of thin air. Like most scientific discoveries, an original idea of how things work was modified over time, getting closer to the currently accepted answer (but always susceptible to change by future discoveries). Yes, 80% of a living tree is made up of water. But if you dry out the wood, 90% of that dried wood is composed of the elements carbon and oxygen derived from the CO2 in the air. Trees convert air into wood! Less than 4% of the mass of a piece of dried wood comes from nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other elements that do come from the soil through the roots.

So, where does most of the dry weight of a tree come from? Air. This answer also helps us have a concrete example of man-made global warming. Trees are taking the CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it as wood. How many trees are the equivalent of the average annual CO2 emissions from a car, that CO2 quantity being 5 tons? Plant more trees, please!
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