Cedrela odorata, commonly known as red cedar, is a tree of the Meliaceae family that is highly prized for its wood in the international timber market. It has its origin in Central America, but because of the quality of its wood and its presence it spread throughout the various tropical and subtropical areas
Due to the deep exploitation of red cedar wood and poor 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.
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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.
Characteristics of the red cedar
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 crust that ranges from grayish brown to reddish brown, while its inner bark is light brown. Its paripinate leaves are arranged alternately, do not have stipulations, the spine is relatively hairy or glabrous, in addition, its leaves are ovate to oblong lanceolate.
In relation to the inflorescence, it presents a vigorously branched panicle. The flowers are unisexual and aromatic, with oblong petals in white tone and glabrous filaments. The fruits are in capsule form that can go from elongated, ellipsoid to obovoid; brown in colour, lenticels on the outside and dehiscent with many brown winged seeds.
In the Caribbean islands they can often be seen in clayey soils derived from limestone, although it also develops in soils from volcanic rock, which reveals that the most important 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 carbonised residues of secondary forests.
There are no known conclusive studies about the nutrient requirements necessary for its growth, as they are only known in its seedling stage. Signs of stress in the plant due to the absence of good drainage can be recognised by the burned appearance of its roots and the loss of irregularly shaped leaves during wet periods.
Red cedar grows best in dry climates, as evidenced by the expiration 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 reproduce and grow with the onset of rains. Although they can subsist in areas of little rain, in these conditions they show a slow and diminished development. It also grows occasionally in areas of heavy rainfall, provided that the soil has good drainage.
Because of its resistant and appreciated wood, it is used in carpentry and joinery work, especially in the production of home furniture, being one of the most frequent uses is the manufacture of decorative veneers. You can also see its wood in musical instruments, doors and windows. Very 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
Red cedar is a plant that is very resistant to termites and rot. However, there are a number of pests that can cause serious problems, including the Hypsipyla grandella butterflies, known as the Meliaceaes drills found in America and the Hypsipyla robusta, which abound in Africa and Asia, severely damaging Cedrela odorata trees when attacking young shoots and seedlings.
Characteristics of Cedar Wood in Construction
We can cite the following properties as general to most kinds of cedar wood.
- Colour: The colour ranges from light pink to yellow in the sapwood. And from yellow to reddish brown in the heartwood.
- Smell: They have characteristic aromas. They are due to the resin that emanates from its interior.
- Fibre: Straight, sometimes intertwined.
- Grain: Medium.
- Hardness and Density: It is light, with a weight that is between 490-550 kg / m3 at 12% humidity.
- Durability: Cedar wood is naturally resistant to attack by fungi and insects, is therefore catalogued as durable. It is due, as with the smell, to the resin. It is suitable for outdoor use.
- Interior carpentry: doors, mouldings, baseboards.
- House construction. It is one of the most used woods in North America for this purpose.
- Crafts: cigar boxes, toys …
- Boat manufacturing.
Dimensional Stability: It is a very stable wood
- Workability: In general terms it is easy to work with both manual and mechanical tools.
- Drying Slow. Low probability of deformations. High risk of resin exudations.
- Easy. Some problem of repel when there is interlaced fibre.
- No problems, unless resin appears.
- Nailed and screwed. Easy.
- No problems, except those derived from the appearance of resin.
- Price: Moderate.
Uses of Cedar
One of the great virtues of cedar wood is its excellent outdoor behaviour. It is used both for the manufacture of structures and for outdoor furniture. It is highly demanded for these uses, not because it is the best option, but because of its high quality / price ratio.
There are better wood and there are also cheaper ones. But we will hardly find a better option for exteriors at the price of cedar wood.
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