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Products > Cedrela fissilis
Cedrela fissilis - Brazilian Cedarwood
Image of Cedrela fissilis
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Meliaceae (Mahoganys)
Origin: Brazil (South America)
Flower Color: Yellow Green
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Height: 40-60 feet
Width: 40-50 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 30-32° F
Cedrela fissilis (Brazilian Cedarwood) - An attractive and long-lived deciduous tree in the mahogany family (Meliaceae) that in our climate grows 40 to 50 feet tall but in its native habitat can reach 100 feet. It is quite fast growing in its first year, forming a stout single stem but then slows considerably with age. This straight trunk, with gray fissured bark, generally branches high with an irregularly rounded crown of thick branches holding velvety stalks bearing the 1 to 2 foot long dark green pinnately compound leaves that has a distinctively garlic-like aroma when crushed. The new light-green foliage is flushed with pink when it emerges in late winter. In May to June appear the lightly-fragrant small pale yellow-green flowers in large foot-long clusters, which are followed by a woody elongated capsule that splits wide to form a 2 to 4 inch wide 5-pointed star when mature - these unique fruits, which are a shiny dark brown spotted with light brown specks, are valued for use in dried flower arrangements and crafts. Grow in a sunny, warm and moist spot for faster growth but is drought tolerant once established and tolerating most any soil so long as it drains relatively well. It is reliably hardy to around 28° F and trees in Santa Barbara were undamaged during the December 1990 freeze when temperatures dropped to below 25° F. Thrives in our coastal climate but avoid planting right along the ocean where direct sea breezes may tatter the foliage. This tree was introduced into cultivation in California by Dr. Francesco Franceschi of Santa Barbara in 1900 and again in 1915 by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI.43417). The first planting of this tree was in 1905 at Dr. Franceschi's downtown nursery that is now a public parking lot at the corner of Gutierrez Street and State Street. This original tree provided the seed for additional street trees that were planted in 1911 along Gutierrez Street between Chapala Street and Santa Barbara Street under the direction of then Santa Barbara City Parks Superintendent, Dr. Augustus Doremus. Dr. Doremus is fondly thought of as the father of Santa Barbara's many parks and for also planting the magnificent Stone Pines that line both sides of Arrellaga Street. Brazilian Cedarwood, also known as is not dramatically showy in flower, but it is notable as a long-lived statuesque tree with gray fissured bark (smooth in youth), flushes of new red-tinged foliage in spring that become attractive dark green and for its interesting fruit. City arborists like this tree since the Santa Barbara street trees, planted in 1911, have not lifted the sidewalks or required more than occasional pruning. At one time Cedrela fissilis was an abundant and wide-ranging species from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina but due to overexploitation, mostly for lumber, the species has become threatened through much of its natural range and it is listed as "Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Cedrela fissilis was first described by José Mariano da Conceição Vellozo (1742-1811) in his Florae Fluminensis which was published after his death in 1829. The name for the genus is derived from a diminutive form of Cedrus, the true Cedar, as the wood from the trees in this genus has a cedar-like aroma. This also accounts for the common name Cedarwood but it is also know a Cigar Box Tree because its wood was used for this purpose and Acaju-catinga and Cedro Colorado in its native lands. The specific epithet is from the Latin word 'fissus' meaning "split", likely in reference to the way the woody seed capsule splits. We also have grown the plant previously known as Cedrela sinensis, but it is now called Toona sinensis and have a large stand of this tree that flushes a beautiful pink color when leaves first emerge in early sping. 

This information about Cedrela fissilis displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.