To learn more, please visit the responsible forest management section for this region.

Contents:

  1. History of Cultivation
  2. Physico-Mechanical Properties
  3. Key Qualities
  4. Physical Properties
  5. Siberian Cedar Products
  6. Effects of Climate
  7. Cedar History
  8. Cedars: compared

History of Cultivation

Siberian Cedar is arguably one of Russia’s most favourite trees; it is even used as a symbol of Krasnoyarsky Kray. It covers a vast area of Siberia, however it also grows in the North-West China, Mongolia and in the ancient mountains of Altaj (Altay). It is so abundant in fact, that it is far from to be considered an endangered species, however in some areas like Altay (Altaj) mountains in Russia, this species has nearly become endangered and now the local government there has commenced programs to address this issue.

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Interestingly, many tribes inhabiting Siberia, Mongolia, current Komi Republic and China regarded it as a tree planted by gods, and it was believed to have energetic properties that always drew attention of people to it. Its wood is soft, light and flexible, and in Russia people laid the huts floors, made boats, sleds, sled, and used the roots for weaving. In the past, people stored milk in cedar bowls. People claimed that milk did not turn sour and tasted more pleasant. The first recorded written descriptions of the Siberian Cedar started appearing in 1585.

However, the main interest to the Siberian Cedar started to grow in direct proportion to the provenance, and hence consumption of pine seeds, until then, these forests only presented interest to the botanical researchers

In the late 19th century, when the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway commenced, estimations at the time pointed out that one seventh (1/7) of total cargo would be pine nuts, and in the period 1899-1908, 189-200 thousand tonnes of nuts were transported annually. As construction of Siberian railway progressed this led to an influx of population, creation of new cities and their rapid urbanization, which as a result revitalized the economy of this, at that time, still very remote region, to develop rapidly. As cities flourished and railways construction around and across Russian Empire increased steadily and at a great speed, so did the demand for wood, this in turn resulted in the development of forestry of Russian empire all the way up until the Revolution of 1917.

It was only after the Soviet Union was created and established its governmental apparatus that the attention to the Siberian taiga (boreal forests) was again paid attention to. Orders came for organization of collections and processing of Cedar and Pine forests. Unfortunately, given the Stalin’s 5-year plans policy to speed up the industrialization of the USSR, little attention in the following decades was paid to sustainable harvesting of timber. It was only after the Second World War, a new stage in the study of pine forests commenced alongside with improvement of forest management. This has greatly contributed to the establishment of forestry as an independent national economic sector in the Soviet Union.

Until now, the Siberian Cedar remained Russia’s best kept timber secret, below we bring to your attention for the first time the qualities of Siberian Cedar.

Physico-Mechanical Properties

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Average Dried Weight:  425- 445 kg/m3
Specific Gravity (12% MC):  0.37, 0.47
Janka Hardness*:  590 bf (2,637 N)
Modulus of Rupture:  90.5 Mpa
Elastic Modulus:  9.09 Gpa
Crushing Strength:  42.0 Mpa

 * = the Janka test is used to measure hardness.

Siberian Cedar - shrinkage variations:

Cedar wood is soft and is easily machined and processed. The mechanical properties presented in the table are the ones of the Siberian Cedar growing in Eastern Central Siberia, Krasnoyarsk region, the region from which our company sources the timber of this magnificent tree.

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Key Qualities

  • Resistance to Decay: Siberian Cedar is graded just as high as the Siberian Larch, and is classified as very resistant.
  • Longetivity: Anything made out of Siberian Cedar has a longevity of service.
  • Strong and pleasant odour: high natural moquito repellent properties.

Physical Properties

Cedar wood is soft and is easily machined and processed. The mechanical properties presented in the table are the ones of the Siberian Cedar growing in Eastern Central Siberia, Krasnoyarsk region, the region from which our company sources the timber of this magnificent tree.

Siberian Cedar has heartwood of a light yellowish-pink colour, not sharply demarcated from the wide, yellowish-white sapwood, with a barely noticeable transition from early wood to older wood. Siberian Cedar also has significantly less resin ducts than Scots pine, but they are larger.

The properties of the Siberian Cedar permit it to be machined with ease, the losses from drying process are minimum and when dried the weight of Siberian Cedar falls into medium weight category. These in turn permit cost-effective transportation of the Siberian Ceder products to Europe.

Apart from being highly rot-resistant, it is extremely mosquito-repellent. Unlike its many relatives in Pinaceae family as well as its Fake Cedar brothers, it does not cause skin or respiratory problems for people with relevant health issues. Due to its impressive qualities in Russia and in China floors and walls of operation rooms in hospitals are often lined with Siberian Cedar cladding and decking. Its smell, and energetic properties - if you believe in that kind of knowledge - have a healing effect that assists a speedy recovery of a patient.

Timber from the Siberian Cedar is used in many industries, with most common uses being: boat interior and exterior, decking, cladding, housing construction, musical instruments manufacture, very suitable for pencil production, saunas, pillars and profiled beams.

Sapwood colour: Pale to white yellow
Heartwood colour:     
Pale yellow to Pink-Red
Grain: Mostly straight
Texture: Medium-fine, some resin canals
Knottiness: Very few, but large
Odour: Pleasant long-lasting Cedar odour

 

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Siberian Cedar Products

There are three main types of products made from larch we supply:

Siberian Cedar beams and planks (fresh cut) - Siberian Cedar decks and cladding - Siberian Cedar hand made houses and saunas

 siberian larch beams and plankssiberian larch decks and claddingsiberian larch houses and saunas

 

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Effects of Climate

Climate has a direct and significant effect on the quality of timber. There are many factors that impact the resulting quality of timber, these include: geography – flatlands versus mountainous regions, temperature, height above the sea level, the amount of precipitation, the type of soil, the amount of sunlight and whether the forest is mixed or uniform to one species.

South versus North (Eurasia): it is commonly acknowledged that the same species growing in the South will have worse physico-mechanical properties than the same species from Northern regions. This occurs due to the fact that harsher climates have lower temperatures that stun growth, however these demanding conditions demand the species growing/surviving in the Northern hemisphere to adapt in the way that dictates their cell-structure to be more robust and better joined together. As a result these tend to have better physico-mechanical properties.

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West versus East (Eurasia): studies have shown that in the Eurasian continent, some species’ physico-mechanical properties tend to worsen the further East they grow, such as spruce and fir. However the opposite is true for other species, across the Siberia that is the case for both the Siberian Larch (Larix Sibirica) and the Siberian Cedar (Pinus Sibirica).

Our Siberian Cedar is sourced around the Angara River, on hills with gradient no higher than 10%. Sourcing timber from hilly landscape presents its dangers, not only to the harvesters but also to the erosion. Hence the 10% gradient is maximum allowed from Forest Renewal potential point of view. However, due to the gradient and due to its location further East, the Siberian Cedar from this region has extra 15-20 kilograms extra in density, reaching 445kgs/m3. Albeit insignificant increase, it is only attributable to natural factors.

Cedars History

The Siberian Cedar is a new tree species to the European Union market, having no benchmarks and no reputation in the Western Europe whatsoever, we have decided to include this small research that our company had to conduct in order to know how our Cedar compares to the other commercially available in the Netherlands types of Cedar.

To begin with, the Cedar family has four (4) main types of Cedar. These are: the Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica) originating from North Africa, mainly Morocco and Algeria, Deodar Cedar (Cedrus Deodara) originating from the mountains of Himalaya and the Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus Libani), which grow in the Middle East, - Lebanon, Syria and South-East Turkey, and the least famous and known is Blue Cedar (Cedrus Brevifolia), native to the island of Cyprus. These trees are coniferous types of trees, and most importantly, they belong to the Pine (Pinaceae) Family. The true Cedars have needles and unprecedented aroma! The first two facts are very important acknowledgements that will be of crucial importance when positioning the Siberian Cedar against its ‘False’ Cedar competitors. Out of the three (3) true cedars, only the Cedar of Lebanon is available in very small quantities in the Dutch market. The reason for that is that the forests of Cedar have been overexploited and cut long time ago; stripping this tree of an industrial significance, as a result in the modern day and age, its main purpose is that of ornamental value due to its biblical significance in the tractates of Christian Religion.

Since the true cedars are nearly unavailable for industrial purposes, many ‘False’ Cedar species have sprung up. Based on three (3) taxonomic criteria the so-called ‘False’ Cedars are credited with being cedars. These are:Siberian Cedar 9

  • The Same aromatic Odour;

  • The cones that stay attached to the tree after the seeds have been harvested/eaten by animals;

  • Exceptionally small leaves, reminiscent that of pine needles, that overlap to form a fern.

The Western Red Cedar (Thuja Plicata) – North-West coast of the Pacific ocean of the North American Continent, the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus Virginiana) native to the Central and East coast of North American continent, and the Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Cupressus Nootcatensis), native to, well, Alaska. All of these are in fact ‘False’ cedars. While, Spanish Cedar or West Indian Cedar (Cedrela Odarata) being a complete outlier here, as it belongs to Mahogany Family of trees and grows in tropics, native to South and Central Americas. None of them even belongs to the Pinus Family, to which Cedrus sub-family belongs. Despite this fact, these ‘False’ cedars reasonably, or not, depending on a point of view, were and are marketed as Cedars by the Anglo-Saxons, with crushing success of their financial might, this marketing/interpretation carried into Europe too and proved highly effective. Most of this taxonomy-overlap marketing is based on the first and second reasoning for these tree species to be called Cedars: odour and the cones. Nevertheless, a lot of this taxonomy reasoning has its roots in history of colonization by Britain and Russia.

In Russia Pinus Sibirica has become known as Cedar, starting with the ancient city of Novogord. The origin of this name is also known: as ancient Russia has adopted Christianity, the most widely read and widely known tractate was The Bible, which repeatedly refers to the cedar trees. Being a religious book, it excluded any intelligible description of this plant, and its properties are mentioned only in terms of its majestic appearance, pleasant resinous smell and relatively soft wood with a pink tinge. Quite naturally, the Russians of the time called new and previously completely unknown to them tree, Pinus Sibirica, as a Cedar, since it possessed most of the listed properties of a Cedar tree from the Bible. As a result, this historical occurrence manifested the general pattern of formation of Botanical Nomenclature.

European Dendroflora (Flora of trees) was poor at that time. During the development and study of our planet, the Europeans faced with the need to nominate more and more new plants. Russian colonization was developing in the direction of Siberia, where Dendroflora was not particularly rich either. As a result, in the Russian language, three coniferous types of tree also became known as Cedars, and all three are close relatives: Siberian Cedar (Pinus Sibirica), Korean Cedar (Pínus koraiénsis) and Creeping Cedar (Pinus Pumila). British colonization engulfed the rest of the world, including many areas with very rich and original Dendroflora. The result is obvious: in modern English about 75 species have in its name the word ‘cedar’. Among them are representatives of all the families of conifers, some other gymnosperms and even flowering plants. Modern English-speaking botanical scientists very carefully refer to this complex legacy and widely use word ‘cedar’.

If to carry on with the historical perspective, another very interesting development in Roman Empire that lead to the genus Cedrus, should be described here. In ancient Roman Empire a close relative of Pinus Sibirica, - Pinus Cembra - was widely known amongst the Romans, and they too, called it Cedar (Ceder). As Latin transformed to become Italian, the genus Ceder changed into Cedro and later into Cembro. In Roman times however, as their colonization moved eastwards into the Middle East, namely the Eastern Mediterranean, they, as conquerors, had the opportunity/right to name the plants in their newly conquered territories according to their likings and habits. Therefore, when they saw for the first time the coniferous plants of Lebanon, they called it Cedrus, which means in Latin ‘reminiscent of Ceder’ or ‘Cederlike’, and hence we have Cedrus Libani. Thus, referring to Pinus Sibirica as a Cedar, Russian explorers not only exercised their inalienable right of discovery, but, unbeknownst to themselves, returned to the plant its righteous historical name.

Cedars: compared

When comparing the Visual and Sensual Qualities of Cedars native to the American continents, it becomes immediately clear that Western and Eastern Red Cedars and Spanish Cedar are very comparable in terms of their colouring (Heartwood), straightness of grain, and most importantly Odour. The Alaskan Cedar stands out both, in terms of colour and smell, both could be argued to be less pleasing. As such, based on visual and sensual comparison Alaskan Cedar has less appeal as decorative wood, not because its grain is not pretty, but because of its relative to other cedars poverty of colour and absence of true Cedar’s scent.

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With Respect to Eastern Red Cedar, an acknowledgement should be made with regard to the odour it produces. It is irritant, albeit having pleasant smell, this smell causes numerous respiratory issues, asthma, affects nervous system and sometimes even causes Nasopharyngeal Cancer. Although Spanish and Eastern Red Cedars have also been reported for causing nasal and throat irritation, they are not classified as sensitizers or have any truly adverse effects on humans’ health.

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With respect to Spanish Cedar, the regions where it grows, which are subtropics and tropics of Central and South America, have highly versatile and rich flora and fauna, as a result it is subject to many natural factors stemming from numerous insects that feed and live off the tree. Their actions cause many issues for the sapwood of Spanish Cedar, and as a result there is immense variability in colour of sapwood depending on the origin of the tree. The areas with less plant-parasites will have less damage to its sapwood and therefore consistent undamaged colouring, vice versa for areas with more plant-parasites.

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The Physical Properties of Cedar of Lebanon and the Siberian Cedar are nearly identical for all parameters. However, two qualities of Cedar of Lebanon are said to be relatively better.

Firstly, because it grows in Sub-tropical climate, its odour is significantly stronger. Although Siberian Cedar has identical, persistent and non-diminishable over time smell, it is not as strong.

Secondly, Cedar of Lebanon has a greater richness and deepness of colours.

Overall, this section may conclude that on the Siberian Cedar in its right is the closest of the mentioned above species to reminisce of Lebanese Cedar as it embeds in its timber qualities in full or partially the qualities of the legendary biblical Lebanese Cedar. Albeit, Lebanese Cedar has no industrial significance anymore, and while it is reassuring that Siberian Cedar is nearly evenly matched to Lebanese Cedar, it is the Western Red Cedar that Siberian Cedar is up against.

When it comes to physico-mechanical properties, the variability is quite large:

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In order to make an assessment of how the Siberian Cedar is comparable to other types of cedar we have created the following chart, whereby for each property we grade the Siberian Cedar to its direct competitor in the Dutch Market, namely for each parameter we grade it the following way: if the quality of Siberian Cedar is worse we put (-), significantly worse (- -), equivalent to competitors (✔) , if better (+) and if significantly better (+ +).

 Siberian Cedar and Cedars compared (Siberische Ceder vergelijking)