Spanish cedar: myths and facts about cedar wood

el cedro madera ideal para los cigarros

Origin of the Spanish cedar name

You hear a lot about Spanish cedar in the world of humidors. But the wood of the so-called Spanish cedar does not actually come from a native tree in Spain. It is wood from tropical species, either from South America or Africa, but not from Spain. So why is it known as Spanish cedar? Cubans, the main producers of cigars, actually began to call it that last century because of the appeal of the humidors made in Spain. Since they very much liked how humidors were built in Spain, they named the wood used in them as Spanish cedar wood. They thought that the humidors looked so good because of the material used, which they then considered as Spanish cedar.

The cedar that is used for humidors or in the cigar cellars is not the cedar that we all know

The cedar that is grown in Spain and that we all know is a tree. In fact, cedars constitute a genus (Cedrus) of pennaceous conifers. Its name comes from the Latin, cedrus. In the Iberian Peninsula, three kinds of cedar are grown: one native to the Atlas Mountains, another from the Himalayas and a third known as Libano (Lebanon). They are large trees of 25 to 50 meters high, highly ornamental, used in large forests and gardens. Its wood is used for other purposes than humidors. For example, it is used in building construction or shipbuilding, but its use in carpentry is limited.

On the other hand, in certain countries, the name cedar is given to other species that are shrubs or small trees. Among them are the species from which the wood for humidors is extracted.

Madera de cedro en los humidores

Types of cedar for humidors

Generally, two types of wood are used for the interior lining of cigar humidors. Both are suitable for the purposes of the humidor: to keep the cigars in perfect condition. This is because they are tropical woods that are very suitable for environments with high levels of humidity in which they maintain very well due to their tropical origin.

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The first species, known as American cedar, is distributed from northern Mexico to northern Argentina, including the Caribbean islands. That is, it is widely distributed throughout tropical America. In fact, it is part of the native flora of most Latin American countries (with the exception of Chile).

Its wood is between pinkish brown to light red with the lightest sapwood. It has a great aroma, but it also has a lot of resin. This last characteristic makes it difficult to use in large-scale humidors, since it requires a long drying time (it can be 15 or 20 years) and treatment so that the resin does not appear inside the humidor. It is applicable in cases of small-scale production cabinetry, when it can be adequately treated to avoid this problem.

The second most used wood species in humidors comes from tropical Africa and some countries in South America. Called bossé cedar, it grows in semi-deciduous forests (part of the leaves of its trees fall) and in the driest and undisturbed areas of moist evergreen forests. Its wood is somewhat less odorous, lighter and does not contain as much resin. Therefore, it is more suitable for humidors made on a large scale.

Type of cedar we use in Wacota

Our 40 years of experience have allowed us to learn that bossé cedar wood is the most suitable for the interior lining of cigar humidors or cigar cellars. In addition to keeping the humidity inside the humidor at the ideal levels for cigars (around 70%), its lower amount of resin makes it perfect for use in humidors. By using this cedar wood, we are much more confident that the resin appears to a lesser extent in the humidors over time, as it can in the case of American cedar. Its characteristics are practically the same as those of Spanish cedar, so the perfect preservation of cigars is guaranteed as before.

Spanish cedar: “endangered in the wild” with closely regulated timber

Spanish cedar wood, so often used inside humidors for its excellent cigar preservation characteristics, is extensively regulated because it comes from a protected species.. Importers and warehouses of wood and board manufacturers have had problems acquiring it since 2019 due to regulations on the species of trees from which this wood comes. There is less and less Spanish cedar available, only stored cedar.

The issue is that the trees from which this wood comes are on two of the main lists of international bodies on endangered species. These are the classifications made by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

CITES, formed in 1973, holds a convention of the countries involved every three years. During this time, species are added (or reassessed and removed) to a three-tiered list of endangered species that have come to be known simply as the “appendices”.

Humidors made with Spanish cedar, also called red cedar or American cedar.

In the case of the Spanish cedar tree species, CITES listed it on 28 November 2019. Specifically, it placed it in Appendix II, which means that it is a species that is endangered in the wild, but not necessarily in danger of extinction. In other words, this timber is closely regulated, but not normally restricted as in Appendix I.

What does this mean? Importing and exporting CITES Appendix I or II listed timber can be complicated and costly in most cases. Moreover, it may not be legal or advisable in many cases, as The Wood Database explains.

Spanish cedar wood
Cedar Bossé alternative to Spanish cedar

Endangered, but not yet at risk of extinction in the near future

The IUCN, founded in 1948, periodically publishes a Red List of Threatened Species, with three categories according to the level of danger: critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. In this list, the Spanish cedar, whose scientific name is Cedrela odorata, is in the third level, that of vulnerable. This means that it is not endangered, but could still face a high risk of extinction in the wild in the future.

The IUCN uses the three-generation indicator to determine the rate of depletion of a species. When it comes to mammals and other shorter-lived organisms, this three-generation window may be only a few years or decades. But because trees can be extremely long-lived (several decades or even centuries for a single generation), the overall timeline for endangered trees is often longer than for other endangered species.

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