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Landscape Update: August 17, 2010

Lightning Strikes Cedar of Lebanon

A severe thunderstorm passed through the area on Monday afternoon August 16, 2010. Strong winds knocked down trees and wires throughout Western Massachusetts. Lightning struck on the Smith campus, hitting one of our more revered trees, the Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani, in front of Wright Hall. Construction workers and project manager Charlie Conant were standing inside looking out when lightning struck the tree. A limb was forcefully ejected into Wright Hall doing some damage to sandstone as it entered the building. Charlie Conant is seeing that this repair is done quickly. No one was injured despite the frightening eye witness accounts. Unfortunately, the tree is split and a section of bark blown off, so it will have to be taken down.

non split by lightningcedar of lebanon split by lightningcedar of lebanon split by lightning
Cedar of Lebanon struck by lightning

Cedar of Lebanon

Hailing from the mountains of Asia Minor (Lebanon, NW Syria, Central Turkey), this species was first introduced to America during colonial times. This particular specimen was planted at Smith on April 16, 1955 when it was 15" tall, and it was moved to Wright Hall in 1981. After especially cold winters it sometimes showed signs of winter damage to the needles. Male cones on the lower branches would release clouds of powdery yellow pollen in the fall, while female cones formed on the upper branches. Cited in religion and mythology, this tree is said to be the embodiment of history, and to cut one down signifies the end of history itself. It is the only example of this species on campus.


With the crack down the middle, the tree was structurally unsound and we were concerned about safety issues. The decision was made to take the tree down as soon as possible and on Tuesday afternoon August 17, 2010 the tree was cut down.

cedar of lebanon takedown cedar of lebanon takedown cedar of lebanon takedown
Cedar of Lebanon being cut down

Cones and Seeds

At the very top of the tree there were a lot of female cones, both this year's green cones and older cones. The cones generally take two years to fully mature and produce ripe seed. As the branches were taken down, Collections Manager Elaine Chittenden collected cones, with the hope of germinating some of the seed and planting the progeny of this tree on campus in the future. We will also be offering seed to other botanic gardens through our Index Seminum (the seed list used for the international seed exchange among botanic gardens and arboreta).

cedar of lebanon takedown cedar of lebanon takedown
Cedar of Lebanon cones and seed


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