himalayan cedar

Cedrus deodara

Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar, Himalayan Cedar, or Deodar; Hindi, Sanskrit: देवदार devadāru; Chinese: 雪松 xue song) is a species of cedar native to the western Himalaya in eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, north-central India (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand states), Kashmir, southwesternmost Tibet and western Nepal, occurring at 1500-3200 m altitude. It is a large evergreen coniferous tree reaching 40-50 m tall, exceptionally 60 m, with a trunk up to 3 m diameter. It has a conic crown with level branches and drooping branchlets.

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

Etymology

The specific epithet and English vernacular name derive from the Sanskrit devadāru, "wood of the gods", a compound of deva (god) and dāru (wood).

Cultural importance in the Indian subcontinent

It is worshipped as a divine tree in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Kashmir and Punjab villages, as the name deodar, a Sanskrit word, (Sanskrit: देवदार devdar), which means, "divine wood". The first half of the word deva means the words divine, deity, deus, and Zeus and the second part connotes durum, druid, tree, and true.

Several Hindu legends refer to this tree. In Valmiki Ramayan – Kishkinda khanda- stanza 4-43-13 reads:.

lodhra padmaka khaNDeSu devadaaru vaneSu ca | raavaNaH saha vaidehyaa maargitavyaa tataH tataH || || 4-43-13

That means “In the stands of Lodhra trees, Padmaka trees and in the woods of Devadaru, or Deodar trees, Ravana is to be searched there and there, together with Seetha. [4-43-13]”

Forests full of Devadaru trees were the favorite abode or living place of ancient Indian sages and their families who were devoted to Hindu god Shiva for whom they performed very difficult tapasya (meditation) to please him.

It is the national tree of Pakistan.

Cultivation and uses

It is widely grown as an ornamental tree, much planted in parks and large gardens for its drooping foliage. General cultivation is limited to areas with mild winters, with trees frequently killed by temperatures below about −25 °C, limiting it to hardiness zones 8 and warmer for reliable growth. It is commonly grown in western Europe (north to Scotland), in the Mediterranean region, around the Black Sea, in southern and central China, on the west coast of North America as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia, and in the southeastern United States from Texas to Virginia.

The most cold-tolerant trees originate in the northwest of the species' range in Kashmir and Paktia Province, Afghanistan. Selected cultivars from this region are hardy to zone 7 or even zone 6, tolerating temperatures down to about −30 °C. Named cultivars from this region include 'Eisregen', 'Eiswinter', 'Karl Fuchs', 'Kashmir', 'Polar Winter', and 'Shalimar'. Of these, 'Eisregen', 'Eiswinter', 'Karl Fuchs', and 'Polar Winter' were selected in Germany from seed collected in Paktia; 'Kashmir' was a selection of the nursery trade, whereas 'Shalimar' originated from seeds collected in 1964 from Shalimar Gardens, India (in the Kashmir region) and propagated at the Arnold Arboretum.

Construction material

Deodar is in great demand as building material because of its durability, rot-resistant character and fine close grain, which is capable of taking high polish. It’s historical use to construct religious temples and as landscape around temples is well recorded. In India, during the British colonial period, deodar wood was used extensively for construction of barracks, public buildings, bridges, canals and railway cars.

Herbal Ayurveda

The curative properties of Deodar are well recorded in Indian Ayurvedic medicines, which are indicated below.

The inner wood is aromatic and used to make incense. Inner wood is distilled into essential oil. As insects avoid this tree, the essential oil is used as insect repellant on the feet of horses, cattle and camels. It also has antifungal properties and has some potential for control of fungal deterioration of spices during storage. The outer bark and stem are astringent. Its Biomedical actions are reported to be Carminative, antispasmodic, creates sweating, urination and is aromatic. Deodar’s Ayurvedic actions are reported to be a) increasing digestive function, b) removal of toxins from the bowel, c) alleviating coughing, d) cures skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. . Cedar oil is often used for its aromatic properties, especially in aromatherapy and has characteristic woody odour which may change somewhat in the course of drying out. The crude oils are often yellowish or even darker in colour. Its applications cover soap perfumes, household sprays, floor polishes and insecticidesand also for microscope work as a clearing oil.

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