Widdringtonia cedarbergensis / Cape cedar

Widdringtonia cedarbergensis, as described in 1966 by Judith Anne Marsh, in Bothalia, 9th edition, is commonly known as Cape or Clanwilliam cedar in the English language, as well as Clanwilliamseder or sederboom in Afrikaans. The species name recognizes South Africa's Cederberg Mountains, where this conifer is endemic.

Description. Cape cedar is an evergreen, coniferous species of shrubby tree that grows to mature heights of 65 feet (20 m) tall. Old plants become spreading, gnarled and massive.

  • Bark is reddish gray in color, with thin, fibrous and flaking texture.
  • Juvenile leaves are up to 0.8 inch (20 mm) long and 0.08 inch (2 mm) wide; adult leaves are up to 0.16 inch (4 mm long).
  • Pollen cones measure 0.04 to 0.08 inch (1 - 2 mm) long.
  • Seed cones are globose, measuring up to 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter, bearing 4 dark brown woody scales with rough, warty faces. The tree may bear cones at various stages of development throughout the year.
  • Seeds are ovoid and narrowly winged.

Distribution. This species is native to South Africa's Cape Province, in the Cederberg Mountains, occurring singly or in scattered groups on rocky outcrops and mountaintops.

Cold hardy to USDA Zone 9, cold hardiness limit between 20 to 30°F (-1.1 to -6.7°C).

Attribution from: Meg Coates Palgrave; Trees of Southern Africa. ©2002, Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Widdringtonia cedarbergensis growing in situ in South Africa.
Photo by Greg Lind
Widdringtonia cedarbergensis — a cultivated specimen in San Francisco Botanical Garden, California.
Photo by Mark Weathington
Widdringtonia cedarbergensis — a closeup of foliage detail.
Photo by Mark Weathington