Cedrela odorata (Red Cedar)

The Cedrela odorata, commonly known as red cedar is a tree of the family Meliaceae highly valued for its wood in the international market timber. It has its origin in Central America, but due to the quality of its wood and its presence it spread throughout the various tropical and subtropical areas.

Due to the deep exploitation of the wood of the red cedar and the scarce natural regeneration, the species is in danger, to such an extent that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified it as vulnerable.


The red cedar is a species that inhabits the humid forests of the subtropical and tropical geography of Central America and the lowlands of South America.

Red cedar characteristics

It is a large tree, with a tubular and straight trunk that loses its leaves annually, monoecious and can sometimes reach 50 meters in height. Depending on the age, it has a rough bark that ranges from greyish brown to reddish brown, while its inner bark is light brown. Its paripinate leaves are arranged alternately, they do not have stipules, the rachis is relatively hairy or glabrous, and its leaves are ovate to oblong lanceolate.

In relation to the inflorescence, it has a vigorously branched panicle. The flowers are unisexual and aromatic, with white oblong petals and glabrous filaments. The fruits are capsule-shaped that can range from elongated, ellipsoid to obovoid; brown in color, lenticels on the outside and dehiscent with many winged brown seeds.


In the Caribbean islands, they can frequently be seen in clay soils derived from limestone, although they also develop in soils from volcanic rock, which reveals that the most important thing for their growth is good soil drainage. Hence, it has spread to places like Trinidad, Mexico and all of Central America. Another factor of great importance is the fertility of the soil, which according to some studies, these are better in soils enriched with charred residues of secondary forests.

No conclusive studies are known about the nutrient requirements necessary for its growth, since they are only known in its seedling stage. The signs of stress in the plant due to the lack of good drainage can be recognized by the burnt appearance of its roots and the loss of leaves in an irregular shape in humid periods.

Weather conditions

Red cedar grows best in areas with dry climates, as evidenced by the aging of its leaves and the formation of growth rings. It reaches greater relief under annual rains of 1200 to 2100 mm, with dry periods of approximately 2 to 5 months and they reproduce and grow with the onset of the rains. Although they can subsist in areas with little rainfall, under these conditions they show a slow and diminished development. It also grows occasionally in areas of heavy rainfall, provided the soils are well drained.


Due to its resistant and appreciated wood, it is used in carpentry and joinery work, especially in the manufacture of home furniture, one of the most frequent uses is the manufacture of decorative veneers. You can also see its wood in musical instruments, doors and windows. Highly appreciated for light construction and light boats.

It is also used in medicinal treatments, since the bark and roots are used to reduce fever and pain in general. Its flowers and leaves serve as antispasmodics, the oil extracted from the seeds serves to heal wounds, the fruit is anthelmintic and the seeds have vermifuge properties; an infusion of these is used to treat earache.

Parasites and diseases

The red cedar is a very resistant plant to termites and rot. However, there are a number of pests that can cause serious problems, among which are the Hypsipyla grandella butterflies, known as the borers of the Meliaceaes found in America and the Hypsipyla robusta, which abound in Africa and Asia, seriously damaging Cedrela odorata trees by attacking young shoots and seedlings.

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