The Loss of the Blue Atlas Cedar

Martha Young
Adams County Master Gardener

Try to imagine 70 to 80 years ago—Baltimore Street in Hanover as it was then. The street was probably narrower than it is now and not as many cars were traveling and they were undoubtedly going a lot slower than present-day traffic. At that time what we know as the Warehime-Myers Mansion was the residence of Clinton and Ethel Myers. Built at the corner of Hanover St. and Baltimore St., there was room for the property to expand southward toward the boundary of the borough of Hanover (Boundary Avenue). From the time the property was built in 1913, Mr. Myers began to expand the yard—by buying the neighboring houses and tearing them down to make way for a large expanse of yard. We can imagine that the lawn may have been used for the popular Victorian game of croquet with the ladies in long, white summer dresses and the men in white suits and straw hats.

Mr. Myers probably began collecting trees as soon as the building was finished and continued as more land became available. His trees are a mixture of natives and exotics. Conjecture is that he followed the Victorian and Edwardian fashion in England of buying exotic trees from Europe and Asia and placing them on the smooth lawns to create park-like settings. It must have been very enjoyable for residents of Hanover to walk or drive by and enjoy the trees and shrubs that were growing and becoming wonderful specimens.

As you probably know, you can determine a tree’s age by the number of rings it displays. The problem is that you must cut down the tree! The Blue Atlas Cedar was probably not the first tree planted—we estimate the age at between 70 and 80 years. Others came before and some have been cut down—either because of disease, or ice storms, or to make room for other trees. The trees still standing show remarkable age and are also remarkably healthy at this point.

Most of the trees that were damaged in our February 2014 ice storm here in Hanover were evergreens—especially white pines and other evergreens. Evergreen wood is generally a soft wood and adding ice to every needle and branch is unsustainable. The Blue Atlas Cedar was still a healthy tree—its problem was the wide limbs covered with needles and then, as ice built up and covered everything, the branches could not support the weight. So, on March 13 and 14, 2014, the two-day job of taking down the tree was completed. The trunk near the base measured 56" x 45". A fast count of the rings came to around 68. We will verify that later. The crews were wonderful, careful, and very energetic. They earned their money.... And we got an exceptional deal from Bartlett Tree Co.

The loss of this tree is going to change the landscape and the atmosphere in a noticeable way: the sun will shine in the southern windows of the Mansion and make it much warmer; the traffic noise from Baltimore St. will be more noticeable; we may have fewer birds—the catkins and cones will no longer be available; it’s possible that the loss of this tree may affect the surrounding trees—more sun or not enough shade—we will have to wait and see the effects.

Aside from the practical reasons to have this tree, there are the esthetic reasons. Most people noticed this tree above all the others in the yard. It was certainly one of the most majestic trees in the area. It probably would have grown and expanded for many more years if the ice storm hadn’t hit it. We in the Hanover Area Historical Society, consider it a great loss to the landscape and plan to replace it with another Blue Atlas Cedar as soon as possible. It will take many years to become the majestic tree we picture but future generations will benefit from our work!

More Facts about the Blue Atlas Cedar

  • Latin name: Cedrus atlantica (Glauca Group) (SEE-drus at-LAN-tih-kuh)
  • Type: Needled evergreen
  • Zone: 6 to 9
  • Height: 40 to 60 feet
  • Spread: 30 to 40 feet
  • Bloom Time: Non-flowering
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water: Medium
  • Maintenance: Medium
  • Leaf: Colorful, evergreen, blue cast
  • Other: Winter interest
  • Tolerate: Drought; hot and humid conditions

This tree originated in the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa (Morocco and Algeria). It can grow as tall as 120 feet. The large female cones are cylindrical or beehive shaped and face upward at the top of the tree, up to 3 inches long and a pale green that matures over 2 years to pale brown. The tree is pyramidal with lower branches spreading about half the height. The lower branches should be left on the tree all the way to the ground level.

Pollination: The lifecycle begins when the male catkin, or cone-like flowers (easily seen at the lower part of the tree, shed quantities of pollen. Air currents carry the pollen to female cones, where fertilization takes place. The seeds within the cones mature in 17 or 18 months, at which time the seeds are dispersed. One tree has both male and female parts. Plants are mature when they begin bearing male and female cones, which can take 5 years or more.

Blue Atlas cedar is a true cedar, unlike red cedar or Eastern cedar, which is actually a type of juniper.

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