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Plant Fact Sheets



(Cedrus deodara)


The deodar cedar (also known as Indian cedar or Himalayan cedar) is a gymnosperm, which means the seeds it bears are naked, as opposed to being completely covered with a fleshy fruit like an apple. The most common group of gymnosperms is conifers, which are in the pine family Pinaceae. Mostly evergreen and cone bearing, conifer trees and shrubs can be male, female or both.

Habitat & Range

Deodar cedars are native to the Himalaya mountains from Tibet to Afghanistan. They often grow at high altitudes in India.


Deodar cedars grow in the typical pyramid shape of conifer trees. Most deodar cedar trees we see in cultivation are around 70-80 feet (21.2-24.2 m) tall, but they have the potential to reach 250 feet (76 m). They are also a very broad tree and can easily spread to 50 feet (15 m).

Life Span

Deodar cedars can live 1,000 years

Cedrus deodara is in the Pinaceae family and is a true cedar unlike some trees we are familiar with, such as western red cedars, which are not actually cedars. The term "true cedar" refers to the fact that the deodar cedar, along with a few other closely related trees, was classified as cedar long ago.

Later, when more of the world was explored, certain trees, such as our native red cedar, reminded people of what they knew as cedar trees. They gave them that same common name but anatomically they are quite different trees. To this day our Thuja plicata, also a member of the Pinaceae family, is referred to by its common name of western red cedar but it is no more closely related to cedars than to pines or redwoods.

The pine family includes 10 genera and about 200 species mostly distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Members of this family that naturally occur in the Pacific Northwest are Abies, true fir; Psuedotsuga, Douglas fir; Picea, spruce; Pinus, pine. The true cedar, Cedrus, is commonly planted here for ornamental purposes.

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

We are all familiar with the important role animals, such as bees and butterflies, play in pollinating plants. Flowers attract animals through bright colors or by aroma. Conifers, however, evolved long before flowering plants and this complex relationship between plants and animals. But conifers still need to get pollen from male cones to female cones. For this they rely on wind. Conifers make up for the unpredictable and unreliable nature of wind by replacing efficiency with sheer volume. There are two kinds of cones on conifers, male and female. The cones we are most familiar with that are hard and fall to the ground are the female cones, which contain seeds. The male cones are small and produce large quantities of pollen. This is evident at certain times of the year when the ground, as well as sidewalks and cars, are covered with a fine yellow-green powder. Male cones are lower on the tree to prevent their pollen from fertilizing the female cones on the same tree. Cross breeding is important in almost all organisms.

Where to Find Them at the Zoo

There are many deodar cedars growing on the zoo grounds. A particularly majestic example grows in front of the Seattle Rotary Education Center in the South Gate Plaza. Children find climbing the massive, low swooping branches irresistible.

Another excellent example can be seen from the boardwalk of the outdoor orangutan forest in the zoo's Trail of Vines. Several large deodar cedars can be viewed from 20 feet (6 m) off the ground. This provides the visitor a good look at the cones developing in an upright fashion along the mature branches.

Conservation Connection

Conifers are the world's tallest, oldest and most massive trees. However, most of these trees no longer exist. The rate of cutting old growth forests (trees more than 250 years old) has left us with a very small fraction of what was on the earth only a few decades ago. In addition to wood products, conifers are used for turpentine, rosin, pine straw mulch, garland, wreaths, Christmas trees and urban plantings. Our reliance on these wood products makes conifers the most important and most exploited timber and pulp source.

How You Can Help!

Old growth forests are quickly disappearing. They are a reservoir of biological diversity that we have yet to totally understand. Many species of animals, plants and fungi are totally dependent on old growth forests for survival. Preservation of the few old growth forests that still remain is essential if we are interested in preserving the overall diversity of life. Using our natural resources wisely needs to be part of our everyday lives. Look for wood products that are certified to have not been old growth, and have been removed from the forest without undue destruction. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Let your elected officials know your views on protecting old growth forests and wild habitats. Contact WPZ at 206.548.2500 to find out ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo or visit How You Can Help.


Deodar Cedar Fascinating Facts

  • The name Cedrus comes from Kedros, the ancient Greek word given to a resinous tree. Its Sanskrit name, Devadaru, can be translated to mean "tree of the gods!"
  • The wood of deodar cedar is stronger than most conifers. Entire forests were cut down when the British built the railroads across India, using the wood for everything from railroad ties and furniture to bridges and firewood!
  • In India, there is an oleoresin derived from the wood of the deodar cedar that is used to cure skin disease!

Sources and Suggested Reading

Van Gelderen, D.M.; Van Hoey Smith, J.R.P. 1996. Conifers: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (two volume set). Timber Press, Portland OR. 706 p.

Elbert L., Jr. Little; Lomeo, Angelo. 1980. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region. Knopf. 639 p.

Arno, Stephen F.; Hammerly, Ramona P. 1978. Northwest Trees. Mountaineers Books. 222 p.v

Pojar, Jim; MacKinnon, Andy. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska. Lone Pine Publishing. 528 p.

For Kids!

Fowler, Allan. 1999. Our Living Forests (Rookie Read-About Science). Children's Press. 32 p. Reading level: ages 4-8.

Gamlin, Linda. 1997. Eyewitness Explorers: Trees. Dk Pub Merchandise. 64 p. Reading level: ages 4-8.