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Search for cedar of Lebanon proves fruitless thus far

When Lebanon, Ore. Mayor Ralph Scroggin and his wife visited Beirut, Lebanon in 1955, they presented the president of the country a number of gifts including a state flag, samples of plywood and pulp, and Cedars of Lebanon – the Oregon strain.

President Camille Chamoun of the Republic of Lebanon had invited representatives from each of the 28 Lebanon municipalities in the U.S. as part of a celebration for a Lebanese International Homecoming. The seven who accepted the two-week stay, including Scroggin, were gifted a handwoven flag of the country, a gold medal of merit, and a Cedar of Lebanon (cedrus libani) sapling – the biblical variety.

The saplings were reportedly held in quarantine for two years at a nursery in Lebanon, Ohio, and then sent to the Lebanon representatives elsewhere in 1958.

Fadi BouKaram, a Lebanese photographer who recently visited here in Lebanon was eager to see the 1955 tree, but a search for it has thus far proved fruitless.

News articles at the time indicate the tree was planted by Scroggin at the Lebanon Community Hospital, just outside the new convalescent wing (now used for endoscopy and administration). Scroggin planted it there as a memorial to his wife who was active in hospital work and had passed away in 1957. A plaque was later to be erected near the tree.

John Dinges, the hospital’s landscaper for the past 20 years, believes the Lebanon cedar likely was removed during renovations the hospital has undergone over the years, and administration at the hospital could not provide further information.

Cedrus libani were used as timber products used during biblical days, and are an important symbol for the Lebanese Republic. Today they are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable to endangerment.

There are other trees in Lebanon that are said to be Cedars of Lebanon, but there is question as to whether they are true cedrus libani.

A news article from 1955 indicates two “Cedars of Lebanon” were planted by Mrs. J. C. Mayer in 1937 at the old Lebanon cemetery. Vandals cut down one and mutilated the other, so the remaining one was moved to the high school. Later, the cut-down tree was found to have grown a new leader and survived.

The article also reports two “Cedars of Lebanon” were planted by homeowner Chet Myers in 1937 at 229 E. Vine, and two others could be found at what was called the Gorman place on Second Street.

A curator of the Oregon State College herbarium inspected the trees in 1955 and reported back that the trees planted by Mayer might be cedrus libani, but it was hard to determine without a cone specimen. The tree at the Myers residence, however, was likely an Atlas Cedar (cedar atlantica manetti).

If anyone can provide information or photos of the cedrus libani in this Lebanon, please contact Sarah Brown at (541) 367-2136.