A tree up to 250 ft high in a wild state, forming in age, like the Lebanon and Atlas cedars, a flat, spreading top where there is room for lateral expansion; of broadly pyramidal form when young. Leading shoot arching; branchlets pendulous at the ends, always downy. Leaves 1 to 11⁄2 (occasionally 2) in. long, needle-like. Cones about 4 in. long, 3 in. wide, broadly egg-shaped, as yet infrequently borne with us.
Native of the Himalaya from E. Afghanistan to Garwhal; introduced by the Hon. Leslie Melville in 1831 but distributed in greater quantity in 1856. Whilst the deodar is less hardy than the other cedars, it is the most elegant in a young state. Few coniferous trees are, indeed, so graceful. It is on this account (as well as by its longer leaves) easily distinguished from the other two, which have more or less erect leading shoots and stiff branchlets. The young twigs of the deodar, too, are as a rule distinctly more downy. Like the other cedars, it varies considerably in the hue of its foliage, which usually is of a grey or glaucous green, becoming dark green on older trees.
The following 'varieties' have been made out of the variations seen in cultivated trees raised from wild seed:
var. robust a (Laws.) Carr. Pinus deodara var. robusta Laws. – Branchlets stouter, leaves longer and thicker, than in the type. First distributed by Lawson's nursery, Edinburgh, before 1851: var. crassifolia Carr. was said to be similar, but with shorter needles and short, stiff branchlets.
var. viridis Carr. – Leaves more slender than in the preceding, dark green or bottle-green.
It is very doubtful whether the above names ever represented clones. A. F. Mitchell has observed that the commonest variant seen among cultivated trees (raised from wild seed of the earlier introductions) has olive-green, thick needles, pointing forward in half-opened bunches. Such trees are marked with an asterisk in the list of specimens.
The following specimens are known or believed to date from the original introduction in 1831: Walcot Park, Shrops., 110 × 123⁄4 ft (1959); Dropmore, Bucks., 99 × 121⁄4 ft (1961), and Bicton, Devon, 97 × 18 ft at 4 ft (1967). Others of large size recorded in recent years are: Bolderwood, Hants, 120 × 93⁄4 ft (1962); Redleaf, Kent, 106 × 131⁄2 ft*; Bury Hill, Surrey, 114 × 123⁄4 ft(1954); Stourhead, Wilts., 105 × 141⁄4 ft (1965)*; Longleat, Wilts., 110 × 121⁄4 ft (1959); Whitfield, Heref., 110 × 141⁄4 ft (1963); Pitt House, Devon, 107 × 133⁄4 ft (1960).
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
specimens: High Woodrow House, Bucks., 92 × 153⁄4 ft (1984); Dropmore, Bucks., pl. 1834, 118 × 111⁄2 ft and, pl. 1840, 102 × 161⁄2 ft (1982); Fairlawne, Kent, 95 × 161⁄2 ft (1976); Roche's Arboretum, Sussex, 112 × 123⁄4 ft (1980); Buxted Park, Sussex, 107 × 143⁄4 ft (1978); Mark Ash, Bolderwood, Hants, 111 × 103⁄4 ft (1979); Bolderwood Arboretum, Hants, 121 × 101⁄2 ft (1979); Broadlands, Hants, 102 × 14 ft (1976); Minstead House, Hants, a fine tree, 121 × 123⁄4 ft (1981); Hursley Park, Hants, 121 × 123⁄4 ft (1982); Longleat, Wilts., 102 × 121⁄2 ft (1971); Longford Castle, Wilts., 102 × 14 ft (1977); Westonbirt, Glos., at junction of Holford and Specimen Avenues, 118 × 121⁄4 ft (1977); Westonbirt House, pl. 1892, 105 × 12 ft (1982); Stratford Park, Glos., 108 × 153⁄4 ft (1984); Tortworth, Glos., 102 × 14 ft (1973); Whitfield House, Heref., 118 × 151⁄4 ft (1984); Broxwood Court, Heref., pl. 1859, 98 × 141⁄4 ft (1975); Eastnor Castle, Heref., the largest of three, 120 × 171⁄2 ft (1984); Lynhales, Heref., 95 × 133⁄4 ft (1981); Holme Lacy, Heref., 80 × 15 ft, 80 × 15 ft (1984); Longnor House, Shrops., 85 × 153⁄4 ft (1984); Walcot Hall, Shrops., 105 × 131⁄2 ft (1975); Cricket House, Som., 82 × 141⁄4 ft (1975); Mells Park, Som., 82 × 141⁄4 ft (1975); Orchardleigh, Som., 98 × 141⁄4 ft (1977); Poltimore, Devon, 75 × 143⁄4 ft (1975); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 115 × 121⁄2 ft (1983); Crathes Castle, Kinc., 98 × 141⁄4 ft (1981); Castle Leod, Ross, 120 × 11 ft (1980); Conan House, Ross, 48 × 93⁄4 ft in 1908, now 88 ft high with the remarkable girth of 183⁄4 ft (1982).
Casualties among the trees mentioned on page 560 have been high. The tree at Bury Hill is dead, and so too are the two largest ones at Bicton. The Stourhead tree is now broken, and the Pitt House tree dying.
Alan Mitchell remarks that the deodar is most decorative when young and again when it has attained a considerable age, but in its middle years tends to be unsightly and carry much dead wood. He suggests that in small gardens it might be best to plant in succession and remove each tree once it is about 20 ft high. Trees intended to be grown to maturity, he advises, should be gradually disbranched in their early years (until about 35 ft high) in such a way that the lower quarter of the total height is free of branches. If retained, these would be shaded and killed by the drooping upper branches; or, as sometimes occurs, one might become excessively stout and spoil the shape of the tree.
In its climatic demands the deodar is the antithesis of the cedar of Lebanon, thriving best in the rainier and cooler parts of the country, though not so demanding in this respect as some American conifers of the Pacific zone.
Although many cultivars of the deodar have been named, few are now grown. Those available in commerce are:
cv. 'Aurea'. – Foliage golden only when quite young. A small, slow-growing tree, in cultivation for more than a century, but rare.
cv. 'Golden Horizon. – Of vigorous, horizontal growth, with golden foliage. Raised in Holland from seed and given an Award of Merit at Boskoop in 1975.
cv. 'Pendula'. – Very laxly branched, making a graceful small specimen if grafted high or trained.
cv. 'Pygmy'. – Very dwarf and slow-growing. A seedling found in a California nursery about 1943.