Plant of the Month November 2017

Extraordinary sea of flowers in autumn – Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ – Blue Atlas cedar

The Blue Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ is a loosely to picturesquely growing tree, which stands out particularly due to its splendid steel-blue needles. It is native to the North African Atlas and Rif mountains. At altitudes between 1500 and 1800 metres, it forms pure stocks or is associated with the Numidian fir or various pine species. Today’s well known blue-needled variety of the Atlas cedar, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’, was discovered in a wild population in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and was demonstrably first cultivated in France before 1867.

At the beginning of the 60s and 70s of the last century, this blue cultivated variety developed into a fashionable plant, so to speak, especially in the newly planted settlement gardens and allotments, also in the northern regions of Germany. Trees around one metre in size were most commonly planted and in the meantime, these once small conifers have developed into real tree giants according to their size at the natural locations, if they have been allowed to grow.

This also applies to the garden of the Ulrich family in Bad Zwischenahn, the garden was completely redesigned at the beginning of the 1960s for a wedding. The Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ planted there at that time had a size of 80–100, as the owners of the garden could still vividly remember today.

Meanwhile, the huge tree in Bad Zwischenahn towers over the entire property. Every three to four years in the months of October to November, large amounts of male cones accumulate on the ground on the pavement of the adjacent parking lot. The Atlas cedar has both male and female reproductive systems (monoecious), and the Atlas cedar has the ability to blossom at the age of 25 to 30 years. The cones grow upright on short shoots Male cones are pale yellow, cylindrical, 3 to 5 cm long. Female cones, on the other hand, rather inconspicuous, green to reddish, 1 cm long.

Atlas cedars have a long history. Atlas cedars can live up to 900 years. The fragrant wood of the Atlas cedars was probably already used in the Phoenician-Classical Antiquity. In the Middle Ages, beams for the ceilings and doors of sacral and representation buildings (mosques, mausoleums and palaces) were made from logs. Cedar wood or cedar oil gives off a pleasantly tart fragrance, which is similar to sandalwood. Cedar oil was already popular in Antiquity and is still prized by perfume manufacturers all over the world.

The tree can grow to a height of 15 to 25 m in our country under normal circumstances, and up to 50 m in its native country. The branches grow upwards rising, the tips of the branches do not hang slightly over the top until old age. It is used in a solitary spot in a generously large location as an ideal eye-catcher. Since the roots are rather weak, an additional support is recommended in the first few years of standing.