What do cedar tree seeds look like?

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Cedar tree seeds are produced by a cedar tree for the purpose of reproduction. The cedar tree is found in North America and Europe. Its woody bark is commonly used to line storage chests and closets, as cedar is a natural moth repellent.

Only Cedrus species are true cedars, but there are several genera of trees that are called cedars. The true cedar trees are conifers, similar to pines, spruces and cypresses. They produce seeds in cones instead of flowers and have needles instead of leaves.


Cedar trees are of the genus Cedrus, but it can be confusing since some junipers and arbor vitae are called cedars. The Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a juniper and the Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is an arbor vitae. True cedars of the Cedrus genus are the Atlas Cedar, Cedar of Lebanon and Deodar Cedar.

Cedar Cones

True cedars produce their seeds in cones, like a pine tree. Cedar cones are thick and round, shaped somewhat like a barrel. They are 3 to 4.5 inches wide and 1 to 2.5 inches long. They have a circular arrangement of flattened scales to which the seeds are attached. The scales loosen as the cone ripens and fall off, layer by layer. Only the female cones produce seeds. Often, cedars have both male and female cones on the same tree, with the female cones generally higher up on the tree. Fertilisation by cross-pollination is made easier with both sexes on the same tree.

Cone Location

Both male and female cedar cones are found at the tips of the tree's branches. Cones that are brown and are just opening or those that haven't opened all the way are the female cones containing seeds. At maturity, the cone breaks apart. Like gliders, seeds are carried on winged structures, which ensures a wide distribution. Seeds are not viable for long and must germinate in cool temperatures.


Cedar tree seeds are in the cone, with two seeds on each cone scale. "When the seeds are ripe, the tip of the cone breaks, and gradually the scales fall off," writes Richard Spilsbury in "Plant Parts." It takes some time for the cones to ripen. By the first autumn of the tree's life, the young female cedar cone may be only 1 inch long. During the second year, the cone gets bigger but is still unripe and green. By the third autumn, the cone begins ripening and changing colour, but remains unopened.


Female cones of the cedar (Cedrus) take three or four years to ripen. They contain ovules that, once fertilised by the male with pollen, become seeds.