Two False Cedars

Two False Cedars

Two False Cedars – Incense Cedar and the Western Red Cedar

Two  trees – the Incense Cedar and the Western Red Cedar –  are called cedars but are  not  ‘true’ cedars; they get their name from having wood that smells similar to the ‘true’ cedars – Cedar of Lebanon, Deodar and Atlas Cedar. They are commonly called ‘false cedars’. They can be identified by differences in their leaves and cones.

Incense Cedar

The Incense Cedar, a conifer native to California, was introduced to Britain in 1853.  It is in fact a member of the Cypress Family. The scale-like leaves can be confused with the Lawson Cypress or Western Red Cedar but the cones are quite different. The leaves generate an aromatic scent when crushed. The tree is grown in large parks, gardens and by roads.

Western Red Cedars

The Western Red Cedar, a conifer native to Western Canada and USA was introduced to Britain in 1853.  It can grow very rapidly and is widely planted in gardens, parks and forestry plantations. Its scale-like leaves are similar to the Lawson Cypress but its flask-shaped cones are different and can be confused only with the Incense Cedar. Its leaves emit a fruity smell when touched.

Incense Cedar scale leaves

The leaves of the Incense Cedar are in the form of over-lapping scales that are close to the shoot until they reach the pointed tips. The scale-like leaves are longer and cling closer to the shoot than those of the Lawson Cypress or the Western Red Cedar. 

Western Red Cedar scale leaves

The scale-covered shoots of the Western Red Cedaer  hang down in flat sprays. The leaves emit a strong smell of pineapple if they are crushed between the fingers. This is a very good way of identifying a Western Red Cedar if you can’t see any cones.

Incense Cedar cones

The cones of the Incense Cedar  hang down like small ornamental flasks.

Western Red Cedar cones

The Western Red Cedar has flask-like cones but they are about half the size of the Incense Cedar cones and stand upright. Photo taken in August.



The Medlar tree Mespilus germanica

The Medlar Tree can be identified by its leaves, flower and unusual fruit. It has been cultivated in England since Medieval times. The Medlar tree is the only species in the Mespilus genus which is a member of the Rose family. It is most closely related to the Crataegus genus (Hawthorn) which is also a member of the Rose family.

Medlar Tree in April
Medlar tree leaf


The Medlar Mespilus germanica is a small tree native to the Black Sea coast of Turkey, through the Caucasus, to northern Iran. It has been cultivated in those regions for thousands of years. It was cultivated in England in Medieval times and was a commonly eaten fruit even in Victorian times but is now rarely eaten. It is not common but is found in old gardens and may have spread into woods in warmer areas. The tree is often grafted onto a hawthorn rootstock. The first photo shows a Medlar tree in late April. The second photo shows that the leaves are long, narrow and wrinkly. 

Medlar tree flower
Medlar tree fruit
The first photo shows a Medlar flower. They emerge after the leaves in May. Flowers have 5 white petals, white stamens and yellow/brown anthers. Behind the flower are 5 green sepals, which become prominent when the fruit is formed. The second photo, taken in September, shows a Medlar fruit. It looks like a brown apple and is technically a pome, like the apple, but it has long sepals that surround an open pit.  The fruit is hard and bitter until it ripens as a result of exposure to frost or having been kept for a long time. This process is known as bletting. The interior then looks rotten, like a pulp, but is perfectly edible. It can be eaten raw or used to make jelly or curds. In Shakepeare’s time the term medlar was used to refer to something that was rotten inside.
Spindle Tree in Autumn

Spindle Tree in Autumn

 Spindle Tree in Autumn

The Spindle Euonymous europaeus is a bushy tree native to Europe, including Britain, Turkey and the Caucasus.  The Spindle is common in hedges and woods on lime-rich soils and has been planted in many gardens. Its wood is hard and fine-grained and was used to make spindles for wool spinning. The small white flowers appear in May. It has a very unusual looking fruit, which is in the form of orange berries in a 4-lobed pink capsule. Technically the orange ‘berries’ are arils, like yew ‘berries’ with an orange outgrowth from the seed which encloses the seed. The leaves are similar to Blackthorn but paired and opposite. It is a member of the Euonymus genus, from which a huge number of ornamental garden plants have been developed.  The genus of 175 species includes evergreen and deciduous dwarf shrubs, vines and trees. The deciduous shrubs are gown for their autumn colour. 

Spindle Tree in Autumn – tree, leaves and pink fruit capsules in autumn. For more photos click HERE.


Spindle Tree in autumn

A Spindle tree in a churchyard in September

Spindle Tree fruit in autumn

Trees are often heavily laden with these unusual fruits in autumn. 

Spindle Tree fruit

Fruit in September

Spindle Tree leaves

The leaves are Blackthorn-shaped but arranged opposite one another on the shoot. Blackthorn leaves are alternate.