The deodar cedar is a member of the Pinaceae family and is native to the Himalayas, thus its other name of “Himalayan cedar”. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, the word deodar means “tree of the Gods.”
This tree was first introduced to Europe in 1822 and to the United States in 1832. This is a large growing evergreen tree, reaching a height of 40 to 80 feet with a spread of 30 to 40 feet.
The tree trunk is very straight, the bark is dark gray turning scaly and deeply furrowed as the tree matures. The arching branches drooping all the way down to the base of the trunk are covered with 1-2” bluish-green needles giving the tree a stately look. The crown of the tree is a pyramidal shape.
In the spring unnoticeable flowers appear followed in late summer by cones that grow upright on the branches and can take up to 3 years to mature before they open releasing winged seeds. The tree produces an aromatic oil that deters insects. In India, the deodar cedar wood is revered for its durability and is used in different carpentry and woodworking projects as well as making incense.
The deodar cedar grows easily in any type of soil with good drainage and is considered drought-tolerant once established. It performs better in full sun to partial shade with ample room to grow and tolerates both the heat and the humidity.
This tree requires very low maintenance but benefits from occasional structural pruning every now and then to remove any dead wood or crossing branches. Avoid excessive irrigation as this can cause root disease.
This tree makes a good landscaping specimen in a park, in one’s garden, or as a street tree. When used as a street tree the lower branches are removed for pedestrian clearance.
Many neighborhoods tend to string thousands of colorful lights on these trees at Christmas time which draws many visitors to them. Two such neighborhoods that come to mind are St. Albans Road in San Marino, and “Christmas Tree Lane” in Altadena where 134 deodar trees were planted in 1885 by John P. Woodbury, the founder of Altadena, on what was supposed to be a long driveway to a personal residence that was never built.
Later on, this stretch of road became known as Santa Rosa Ave, where since 1920 the tradition of lighting up these deodars at Christmas time started.
However, for me, one of the most beautiful double-planting of deodar cedar trees remains the one on Beaumont Ave in Beaumont where for a mile and a half you can find more than 115 of these majestic beauties gracing that avenue. These trees were planted in 1930 and serve as a windbreak. Finding yourself driving through a tunnel with an overhang of drooping branches is a sight to behold.