Spanish Cedar

Spanish CedarThe term Spanish cedar refers to a group of 6 or more species in the Cedrelo genus that are distributed from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. Spanish cedar is one of the few tropical trees that is ring-porous. The heart wood varies from white to pink, the texture is usually coarse and uneven and has a non interlocking grain. The wood has a distinctive odor ( cigar boxes are made of this species). Although not high in strength, it is straight grained and rot resistant and works well. Common uses are boat building, plywood, furniture, windows, doors, humidors, and decorative accent work.

Environmental Profile
This species is reported to be relatively secure within its natural growth range in most areas including French Guina, Guyana, and Surinam, but it is classified as either Extinct, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Rare in the Dominican Republic and Panama, and is also reported to be Vulnerable in Peru and Endangered in Colombia. The environmental status of the species in the wild in the Carribean Islands, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela is currently listed as unknown because of inadequate information (Source – World Conservation Monitoring Center – 1992 ).

Although it may be rare in some parts of its range, the species is reported to be rather widespread and abundant within the remainder of its range (Source – The Nature Conservancy – Rank of relative endangerment based primarily on the number of occurrences of the species worldwide ).

C. odorata produces the famous Spanish Cedar, a timber of great commercial interest for over 200 years. Today, its distribution is reported to be greatly diminished due to excessive exploitation, and large trees of good form and size are reported to be rare.

The geographical range of the species is reported to include the Cape Verde Islands, and although its natural range has been obscured by exploitation, forestry plantings, and trees which have escaped cultivation, it has been cultivated from Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, Mexico to Argentina and on most of the Caribbean islands. It occurs in both dry and moist lowland deciduous forests up to an elevation of 3900 feet (1200 m). The species is a strong light demander and is reported to appear frequently as a fast growing pioneer species in secondary forests. It is often protected, and is seen growing in cultivated fields, orchards and plantations, and sometimes as a shade tree for coffee plants.

The species is also reported to be widely planted in many tropical regions, including Nigeria because of its valuable timber, rapid growth, ease of establishment in taungya plantations, and relative freedom from shoot-borer attack.

Product Sources
Some material from this species is reported to be available from environmentally responsible or sustainably managed sources.

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) reports that the species is a very important source of timber. The timber is reported to be exported regularly, especially as square-edged timber and veneer.

The following species in the database is reported to be similar to Central American cedar in color, weight, and hardness:
Cedrillo (Huertea cubensis )

Tree Data
Cedrela trees are reported to attain heights of 100 feet (30 m) and over, under optimum growing conditions. The buttressed trees usually have long and clear cylindrical boles up to 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 m) and trunk of diameters 36 to 72 inches (90 to 180 cm).

Sapwood Color
The sapwood is pale in color and is not sharply demarcated from the heartwood.

Heartwood Color
The heartwood usually ranges from pale pinkish-brown to dark reddish-brown in color, and darkens upon exposure. Timber from younger or fast-grown trees is reported to be generally paler in color.

The grain is straight or shallowly interlocked.

The wood has moderately coarse texture.

The wood varies from lustrous to highly lustrous.

Natural oil in the wood gives off a distinctive fragrant scent.

Ease of Drying
The timber is reported to kiln dry fairly rapidly and satisfactorily.

Drying Defects
The material has a tendency to distort and collapse. Individual pieces may distort or collapse appreciably. Knots tend to split badly, but surface-checking is usually slight.

Movement in Service
The timber is reported to be dimensionally stable, and holds its shape very well after seasoning.

Natural Durability
The heartwood is reported to have high natural resistant to decay. The sapwood is liable to attack by powder-post beetles. The wood is reported to be highly resistant to termites in the West Indies, and moderately resistant in West Africa.

Resistance to Impregnation
The heartwood is reported to be extremely resistant to impregnation, while the sapwood is moderately resistant.

Inhibiting Volatiles
Timber produced by most species in the genus Cedrela are reported to contain volatile oils which tend to limit their use for certain applications, such as clock cases. Timber from young or fast-grown trees is reported to be generally less resinous than that from mature or more slowly-grown trees.

Strength Properties
The bending strength of the species is considered medium, being much weaker than White oak or Teak in the air-dry condition (about 12 percent moisture content). It is weak in compression parallel to grain (maximum crushing strength), and is inferior to Mahogany. Surfaces may dent or scratch easily since the wood is soft. Weight and density are about average.
Strength properties are reported to be generally high, relative to weight.

Species information has been provided by

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