Cedrela odorata (PROTA)

From PlantUse English
Revision as of 19:19, 19 March 2017 by Michel Chauvet (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Prota logo orange.gif
Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

General importance Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage Africa Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage World Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svg
Carbohydrate / starch Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Medicinal Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Timber Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svg
Fuel Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Ornamental Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Auxiliary plant Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Conservation status Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg

distribution in Africa (planted)
1, tree habit; 2, branch with leaf; 3, sectioned flower; 4, dehisced fruit; 5, seed. Source: PROSEA
leaf and dry fruits
leaf and dry fruits
stacked planks (Arnhemse Fijnhouthandel)
stacked planks (Arnhemse Fijnhouthandel)
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section

Cedrela odorata L.

Protologue: Syst. nat. ed. 10, 2: 940 (1759).
Family: Meliaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 50, 56


  • Cedrela mexicana M.Roem. (1846).

Vernacular names

  • Spanish cedar, West Indian cedar, cigarbox cedar (En).
  • Cèdre acajou, cédrela, acajou cédé, acajou femelle, acajou rouge, acajou amer (Fr).
  • Cedro (Po).
  • Mwerezi (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Cedrela odorata originates from tropical America, but is now much cultivated for its timber and as an ornamental or wayside tree throughout the tropics. It is extensively planted in tropical Africa, in West as well as East and southern Africa, and in Madagascar. Timber plantations have been established in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa, and in several other tropical countries. In Ghana Cedrela odorata was planted along roads as early as 1898, and is now one of the most frequently planted species in forest plantations. In Tanzania it was introduced in 1911, in Nigeria in 1929. In Côte d’Ivoire more than 9900 ha were planted between 1963 and 1995.


The best known use of the wood of Cedrela odorata (trade name: cedro) is for cigar boxes, but it is also used for light construction, joinery, mouldings, panelling, louvred doors, boat building, furniture, cabinet work, weatherboards, boxes, household implements, musical instruments, carvings, veneer, plywood, turnery and matchboxes. The insect-repellent smell of the wood makes it particularly suitable for the manufacture of clothing chests and wardrobes. Residue wood is used as firewood and for charcoal production; in Ghana the tree is planted in firewood plantations.

Cedrela odorata is commonly planted as an ornamental tree, and particularly as a roadside tree. It is also planted as a shade tree in e.g. cocoa and coffee plantations. Flowering trees are a good source of nectar for honey bees. In traditional medicine in São Tomé the bark is used to treat malaria. In Tanzania the bark dipped in hot water is applied to numb foot soles.

Production and international trade

In many regions within the natural area of distribution of Cedrela odorata the timber is highly prized and has been much overexploited. Exploitation has continued on a large scale over the past 200 years in tropical America and in many areas it is still exploited. In 2004 small volumes of Cedrela odorata logs were exported from Mexico at an average price of US$ 207/m³, and small volumes of sawn wood from Colombia at an average price of US$ 322/m³. The timber is exported from several other tropical American countries, but then usually in mixed consignments with other Cedrela species. In tropical Africa Cedrela odorata timber is still of limited importance, but exploitation of timber plantations is starting. Ghana, for instance, occasionally exports small volumes.


The heartwood is pale cream in colour immediately after sawing, turning pinkish brown upon exposure, distinctly demarcated from the narrow creamy yellow or pale brown sapwood. The grain is usually straight, sometimes interlocked, texture moderately coarse. Fresh wood has a distinct cedar-like odour. Sometimes the wood exudes gum.

The wood is light- to medium-weight, with a density of 260–525 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. In plantations a large variability has been observed; wood of 14-year-old trees from Côte d’Ivoire had a density of 260–340 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, wood of 52-year-old trees of Tanzanian origin had a density of 385–480 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The rates of shrinkage may be low (e.g. 1.5% radial and 2.2% tangential from green to 12% moisture content was reported from plantation-grown wood in Samoa), but they may also be fairly high. For the wood of 14-year-old trees from Côte d’Ivoire, shrinkage rates from green to oven dry were 2.5–3.2% radial and 6.4–6.7% tangential. The wood dries moderately fast with a slight risk of checking and deformation. Air drying to about 30% is recommended prior to kiln drying. Boards 25 mm thick take about 2 months to air dry, boards 50 mm thick about 3.5 months. Once dry, the wood is stable in service.

The wood is weak. For wood of Tanzanian origin with a density of 450 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture was 54 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 8100 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 35 N/mm², shear 8 N/mm², cleavage 49 N/mm radial and 56 N/mm tangential, and Janka side hardness 2050 N.

The wood is easy to work. It saws well, but growth stresses may cause severe end splitting of logs and warping and splitting of the central core during saw milling. It bores, turns and sands well and produces a good finish; it is easy to glue. It nails easily, but the nail-holding power is low. Rotary peeling and slicing give good results without pre-treatment, producing attractively figured veneer.

The heartwood is rated as durable, but only moderately resistant to termites; the sapwood is non-durable and susceptible to staining and powder-post beetles. The heartwood is usually resistant to impregnation with preservatives. Wood dust may irritate the respiratory organs and skin. Kraft pulping gave only moderate results: a yield of 54% with a Kappa number of 71; brightness was low.

Bark extracts showed moderate in-vitro antiplasmodial activity. In in-vivo assays in mice infected with Plasmodium berghei the bark extract exhibited significant inhibition of the parasite multiplication at a very high oral dose of 1000 mg/kg per day. Gedunin, a terpenoid with antimalarial properties present in the bark, may be involved. Wood extracts also showed in-vitro antimalarial activity. In tests in Nigeria crude bark extracts exhibit significant activity against the maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais), a pest of stored cereals. Gedunin isolated from Cedrela odorata has shown antifeedant activity against the rice weevil (Sitophilus oryzae).


  • Deciduous or evergreen, monoecious, medium-sized to large tree up to 40(–50) m tall; bole branchless for up to 20(–25) m, up to 180(–300) cm in diameter, without buttresses or with low, blunt buttresses at base; bark surface greyish brown to reddish brown, fissured, inner bark pinkish brown; crown rounded; young branches with lenticels.
  • Leaves alternate, paripinnately compound with (5–)6–14(–15) pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; rachis slightly hairy or glabrous; petiolules up to 2 cm long; leaflets ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 5–17 cm × 2.5–7 cm, asymmetric at base, acute or acuminate at apex, entire, glabrous, pinnately veined. Inflorescence a terminal, much-branched, pendent panicle up to 50 cm long, glabrous or slightly hairy.
  • Flowers unisexual, male and female flowers very similar in appearance, regular, 5-merous, fragrant; pedicel up to 2 mm long; calyx cup-shaped, c. 2 mm long; petals free, 7–9 mm long, creamy white, fused in lower half to columnar androgynophore; stamens free, 2–3 mm long; ovary superior, globose, glabrous, 5-celled, style 1–3 mm long, stigma disk-shaped; male flowers with rudimentary ovary, female flowers with non-dehiscing, smaller anthers.
  • Fruit an oblong-ellipsoid to obovoid capsule 1.5–4(–7) cm long, pendulous, with lenticels, brown, dehiscing with 5 slightly woody valves, many-seeded.
  • Seeds 2–3 cm long, pale brown, winged at apex.
  • Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons leaf-like; first leaves opposite, 3-foliolate with entire leaflets.

Other botanical information

Cedrela comprises about 8 species, with a natural distribution confined to the American tropics. It is closely related to Toona from tropical Asia and Australia. Toona ciliata M.Roem. is planted as a roadside tree and shade tree in tropical Africa, occasionally in timber plantations, and has often been confused with Cedrela odorata. It differs in its flowers without androgynophore and in its lobed or toothed seedling leaflets.


Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):

  • Growth rings: (1: growth ring boundaries distinct); (2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent).
  • Vessels: (4: wood semi-ring-porous); (5: wood diffuse-porous); 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; 23?: shape of alternate pits polygonal; 25: intervessel pits small (4–7 μm); 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm; 46: 5 vessels per square millimetre; (47: 5–20 vessels per square millimetre); 58: gums and other deposits in heartwood vessels.
  • Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 65: septate fibres present; 66: non-septate fibres present; (68: fibres very thin-walled); 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled.
  • Axial parenchyma: 76: axial parenchyma diffuse; 78: axial parenchyma scanty paratracheal; (79: axial parenchyma vasicentric); 89: axial parenchyma in marginal or in seemingly marginal bands; (92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand); 93: eight (5–8) cells per parenchyma strand.
  • Rays: (97: ray width 1–3 cells); (98: larger rays commonly 4- to 10-seriate); 106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells; 115: 4–12 rays per mm.
  • Mineral inclusions: (136: prismatic crystals present); (137: prismatic crystals in upright and/or square ray cells); (141: prismatic crystals in non-chambered axial parenchyma cells); (142: prismatic crystals in chambered axial parenchyma cells).
(P. Mugabi, A.A. Oteng-Amoako & P. Baas)

Growth and development

Seedlings grow very quickly and may attain 40–50 cm height after 3 months and 130–150 cm after 12 months. Early mean annual growth may be up to 2.3 m in height and 4.8 cm in diameter under favourable site conditions and when not attacked by Hypsipyla shoot borers. In a plantation in Ghana, mean annual height and diameter increments decreased from 4.8 m and 5.4 cm, respectively, in the 2nd year to 1.4 m and 2.1 cm in the 15th year. In Côte d’Ivoire the best provenances reach a mean diameter of 23–27 cm after 14 years and of 45–51 cm after 24 years. A tree planted in Uganda reached 35 m tall after 20 years. In the east Usambara mountains (Tanzania) 50-year-old trees were 26–34 m tall, with a bole 14–21 m long and 40–50 cm in diameter. The root system is superficial. First flowering can be expected after 10–15 years. Flowering is annual, but good seed production occurs every 1–2 years. The flowers are pollinated by insects such as bees and moths. Fruits ripen about 3 months after flowering. The seeds are dispersed by wind. Association with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae has been recorded.


In its natural area of distribution Cedrela odorata occurs in primary and secondary forest, up to 1200 m altitude. It prefers well-drained sites on a variety of soils, but is usually more common on limestone-derived soil, especially in areas with a high annual rainfall (2000–3000 mm). It tolerates some drought once the tree is well established. It is best planted in fertile, well-drained soil, providing good aeration required by the root system. In Uganda Cedrela odorata grows well in the warm and moist climate near Lake Victoria. Cedrela odorata is a light demander, and behaves as a long-lived pioneer.

Propagation and planting

Seeds are often produced in great number, and can be collected from the soil or from a canvas mat placed below a fruiting tree, but seed collected from ripe fruits still on the tree shows better germination results. The 1000-seed weight is 15–30 g. The germination rate of fresh seeds is usually high, and seeds germinate 14–28 days after sowing. Well-dried seeds can be stored for more than a year with fair retention of viability. Germination of seeds kept in closed glass bottles at 4–6°C was 82% after 2 months and 78% after 14 months. Seeds are broadcast or sown in lines in level nursery beds and lightly covered with soil, sand, sawdust or charcoal. Where there is adequate moisture, shade is not necessary; it increases the risk of damping-off. Seedlings are planted out when they are 30–40 cm tall. Direct seeding is feasible, as seedlings develop very quickly.

Successful vegetative propagation of Cedrela odorata by air layering and cuttings is known from West Africa. Stumps, striplings and container-grown seedlings are used for planting. Stumps 20 cm tall and with a diameter of 1–2 cm planted 10 cm deep showed nearly 100% survival in Indonesia. Wildlings are also used for propagation, and often show high survival rates. Spacing is usually (3–)4–6 m × (3–)4–6 m.


Trial timber plantations have been established in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa. Tests in Ghana showed that application of 200 ml of 15:15:15 NPK fertilizer solution to seedlings in pots filled with sandy loam once in every 1–2 weeks increased stem height and diameter growth significantly; the optimum concentration was 1.2–1.6 g/l. Adding compost to the pots also had a positive effect on seedling growth. Weeding during the first year is necessary. In enrichment planting it is important to ensure sufficient overhead light. Cedrela odorata cannot be managed by coppicing. For plantations in Côte d’Ivoire with an initial density of 1111 trees/ha, it is recommended that about 50% of the trees are thinned out when they are about 10 m tall, having a basal area of 14 m²/ha. The second thinning (from 600 to 400 trees/ha) should be done when the basal area is 15 m², the third one (from 400 to 200–250 trees/ha) when the basal area is 16 m² and the last one (to the final density of 120–150 trees/ha) when the basal area is 18 m².

Diseases and pests

The moths Hypsipyla grandella, occurring in America, and Hypsipyla robusta, occurring in Africa and Asia, severely damage plantations of Cedrela odorata by attacking young shoots and seedlings. There is some evidence that attacks are reduced by planting under shade. Planting Cedrela odorata in mixed plantations is also recommended. Cedrela odorata grafted on Toona ciliata is resistant to Hypsipyla grandella. Heart rot is frequent in trees with a large diameter.


A 40-year-old plantation in Nigeria yielded a timber volume of 455 m³/ha. In southern Côte d’Ivoire the productivity is 7–16 m³/ha/year.

Genetic resources

Cedrela odorata is much sought after for its timber in its natural distribution area, and has become scarce in many regions. Large trees of the form and size desired for exploitation are now rare. Cedrela odorata is included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species as vulnerable. The populations in Colombia and Peru are listed in CITES Appendix III. This means that trade in logs, sawn wood and veneer from these countries is allowed only on presentation of appropriate permits or certificates, but there are no impediments to trading of wood from other countries and from plantations. The planting of Cedrela odorata throughout the tropics compensates to some degree for the high pressure on wild populations. In international provenance trials, more than 15 provenances are being tested in Africa, and breeding programmes have started in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Congo.


Cedrela odorata is a promising timber plantation species because it grows rapidly and yields a multipurpose timber. The superficial root system is a drawback for planting in agroforestry systems and its susceptibility to Hypsipyla grandella should be considered when using this species in timber plantations in tropical America, where planting Cedrela odorata in mixed plantations, together with non-Meliaceous species, is recommended.

Major references

  • Bolza, E. & Keating, W.G., 1972. African timbers: the properties, uses and characteristics of 700 species. Division of Building Research, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. 710 pp.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • Chung, R.C.K., Boer, E., Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Noshiro, S., 1995. Cedrela P. Browne. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Soerianegara, I. & Wong, W.C. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(2). Timber trees: Minor commercial timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 122–126.
  • Katende, A.B., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook 10. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 710 pp.
  • Lamb, A.F.A., 1968. Cedrela odorata. Fast growing timber trees of the lowland tropics No 2. Commonwealth Forestry Institute, Oxford, United Kingdom. 46 pp.
  • Nwoboshi, L.C., 1997. Growth, biomass and nutrient accumulation in an age series of Cedrela odorata plantations in Ghana. Ghana Journal of Forestry 4: 56–62.
  • Takahashi, A., 1978. Compilation of data on the mechanical properties of foreign woods (part 3) Africa. Shimane University, Matsue, Japan, 248 pp.

Other references

  • Béna, G. & Béhaghel, I., 1994. Essai comparatif de provenances Cedrela odorata, séguié 1969 - analyse des inventaires 1983 et 1993. IDEFOR, Département foresterie, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Bryce, J.M., 1967. The commercial timbers of Tanzania. Tanzania Forest Division, Utilisation Section, Moshi, Tanzania. 139 pp.
  • Cobbinah, J., 2004. Forest fertilization in Ghana: conceptual background and case study with cedrela and teak in polypots. Ghana Science Abstracts 14/15/16: 226.
  • Corbineau, F., Defresne, S. & Côme, D., 1985. Quelques caractéristiques de la germination des graines et de la croissance des plantules de Cedrela odorata L. (Méliacées). Bois et Forêts des Tropiques 207: 17-22.
  • CTFT (Centre Technique Forestier Tropical), 1962. Cedrela odorata Linné et Toona ciliata M. Roemer, caractères sylvicoles et methods de plantation. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques 81: 29–34.
  • Do Céu de Madureira, M., Martins, A.P., Gomes, M., Paiva, J., Proença da Cunha, A. & do Rosario, V., 2002. Antimalarial activity of medicinal plants used in traditional medicine in S. Tomé and Principe islands. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 81: 23–29.
  • Dupuy, B., 1988. Préconisations sylvicoles pour la conduite des reboisements intensifs à vocation bois d’œuvre. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 54 pp.
  • Dupuy, B., Doumbia, F., N’Guessan Kanga, A. & Cabaret, N., 1988. Table de production provisoire du Cedrela odorata en Côte d’Ivoire. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 23 pp.
  • Durand, P. & Kouassi, E., 1979. Propriétés physiques du cédrela (Cedrela odorata) - Plantation de Mopri 1964 (Résultats des essais No 112–04 et 112–05). Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 14 pp.
  • Ewete, F.K. & Alamu, O.T., 1999. Extracts of three mahogany species as grain protectants against Sitophilus zeamais Motschulsky (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Journal of Tropical Forest Resources 15(1): 22–29.
  • Forest Products Research Laboratory, 1971. Report on a consignment of Cedrela odorata from Nigeria. Report on Overseas Timbers No 16. Forest Products Research Laboratory, Princes Risborough, United Kingdom. 17 pp.
  • Jouve, P., 1984. Essais spécifiques Loudima Malolo 1979–1980: Cordia, Cedrela, Acacia, Swietenia. Résultats des mensurations de 1984. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Centre du Congo, Loudima, Congo. 18 pp.
  • Lamprecht, H., 1989. Silviculture in the tropics: tropical forest ecosystems and their tree species, possibilities and methods for their long-term utilization. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany. 296 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • N’Guessan, A., 1988. Essai comportement Cedrela odorata - Mopri. Bilan en 1987. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 7 pp.
  • Omar, S., Marcotte, M., Fields, P., Sanchez, P.E., Poveda, L., Mata, R., Jimenez, A., Durst, T., Zhang, J., MacKinnon, S., Leaman, D., Arnason, J.T. & Philogene, B.J.R., 2007. Antifeedant activities of terpenoids isolated from tropical Rutales. Journal of Stored Products Research 43(1): 92–96.
  • Omoyiola, B.O., 1972. Initial observations on a Cedrela provenance trial in Nigeria. Research Paper No 2 (Forest Series). Federal Department of Forest Research, Ibadan, Nigeria. 8 pp.
  • Pennington, T.D., 1981. Flora Neotropica monograph number 28. Meliaceae. Organization for Flora Neotropica. New York Botanical Garden, New York, United States. 470 pp.
  • Styles, B.T. & White, F., 1991. Meliaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 68 pp.
  • Tanzania Forest Division, 1963. Timbers of Tanganyika: Cedrela mexicana (Central American cedar). Tanzania Forest Division, Utilisation Section, Moshi, Tanzania. 4 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Chung, R.C.K., Boer, E., Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Noshiro, S., 1995. Cedrela P. Browne. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Soerianegara, I. & Wong, W.C. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(2). Timber trees: Minor commercial timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 122–126.


  • R.H.M.J. Lemmens, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2008. Cedrela odorata L. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 2 April 2023.