Cedrus atlantica, is a cedar tree native to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco.
Fully grown, the Atlas Cedar is a large tree of 30-35 m with a trunk 2 m wide and it is very similar to other cedars regarding cone and leaf size.
Nowadays, the Atlas Cedar is being cultivated as an ornamental tree in temperate climates because it is more tolerant of tropical conditions than most conifers. Many horticulturalists treat the Atlas Cedar as a subspecies of the Lebanon Cedar; all cedars have layered evergreen foliage though the needles of the Atlas are slightly greyer than the Lebanon which also has level branches.
Atlas Cedars form forests at an altitude of between one and two–thousand metres. They provide the habitat for the endangered Barbary Macaque often referred to as a “Barbary Ape” because of the small population in Gibraltar, though they are definitely monkeys not apes.
Bluish foliage, downy shoots and the ascending branches are typical of cultivated cedar trees, thus many Cedar plantations have now been established in France for timber production!
Common in parks and gardens in the UK, the most likely seen variety of this tree has greyish, blue needles that are shorter than those of the Lebanon. Both trees however, still grow clumps of rosettes and have an upright male flower.
Atlas cedars are frequently found in Britain, thus they were introduced to the UK in 1841, some two-hundred years after the Cedar of Lebanon; both of which have similar height and the cedar trees are conifers meaning they are cone-bearing.
To identify an Atlas Cedar try looking at the direction in which the branches grow: Atlas branches ascend, Lebanon branches are level and Deodar droop.
All cedar trees flourish in hot dry conditions like many conifers, but can survive in wet, cold and even polluted environments; after 150 years of age the branches rot and fall without warning so the trees do need replacing though doesn’t the appearance of these large, almost exotic wonders of nature, look quite unmistakeable?
There is an Atlas Cedar growing above the old fashioned red telephone box at the lower end of Crystal Palace Park in South-East London and another in the grounds of the White House where Jimmy Carter had a tree house built for his daughter. Designed by the President himself, this infamous Atlas Cedar thankfully is self-supporting and not causing the tree any damage.