After a lifetime reading about the Cedars of Lebanon, spotting Cedrus libani in plant walks around the University of Oregon campus, and spec’ing Cedrus deodora ‘Silver Mist’ on more than a few job sites, I was awed by visiting the weathered trunks and sprays of green in situ.
During our weekend in Northern Lebanon, Jimmy and Madeleine took us to visit one of the few remaining preserved forest communities: The Tannourine Cedar Reserve.
So few of the ancient Cedars remain, and by ancient, I’m only speaking about a few hundred years. The truly ancient specimens are erased from the landscape. The prized cedar wood was harvested for palaces, temples, and kingdom plunder; the fabled towers of old now live in myth and legend alongside enormous fir trees of Oregon old growth forests.
The modern-day cedar reserves are precious, small, tenacious in their ongoing plight to stand against illegal harvest and hauling. Tannourine is the second largest reserve in Lebanon, home to 60,000 Cedar Trees.
A large number; a modest patch.
A final stronghold. A last encampment.
Lingering sentinels growing side by side on their remaining territory.
The reserve was formed in 1999, and visitors are welcome to pay a visit, make use of walking trails, and admire the remnants of Lebanese natural history.
Jimmy and Madeleine led the way. We parked, paid our entry fee, and headed into the canopy.
Evegreen Cedar of Lebanon needles
Oak species also making a home in the reserve
Euphorbias growing wild
Rugged, rocky landscape of Northern Lebanon
Madeleine & Jimmy
It’s hard to put the experience into words (hence, the pictures – I’m banking on them each being worth about a thousand, right?).
Photos and feeble field-sketched watercolors couldn’t quite capture the moment, but sitting in the cedars’ shade while ants crawled on my legs and afternoon heat evaporated the liquid from my paint palette sealed the memory into my spirit.
Haunting and majestic, these ancient characters.
Oh yes, God brings grain from the land, wine to make people happy, Their faces glowing with health, a people well-fed and hearty. God’s trees are well-watered— the Lebanon cedars he planted. Birds build their nests in those trees; look—the stork at home in the treetop.
Mountain goats climb about the cliffs; badgers burrow among the rocks. The moon keeps track of the seasons, the sun is in charge of each day. When it’s dark and night takes over, all the forest creatures come out. The young lions roar for their prey, clamoring to God for their supper. When the sun comes up, they vanish, lazily stretched out in their dens. Meanwhile, men and women go out to work, busy at their jobs until evening.
What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations. Oh, look—the deep, wide sea, brimming with fish past counting, sardines and sharks and salmon. Ships plow those waters, and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them. All the creatures look expectantly to you to give them their meals on time. You come, and they gather around; you open your hand and they eat from it. If you turned your back, they’d die in a minute— Take back your Spirit and they die, revert to original mud; Send out your Spirit and they spring to life— the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.
-The Book of Psalms, 104:15-30
I’ll hold to the memories and forever think of this place when I see Cedars growing in back yards and parks and college campuses…and I’ll hope that the conservation projects in Lebanon are successful in keeping these beauties protected for generations to come.
Visitor’s Information: Tannourine Cedar Reserve.
Our Recommendations: Take water, take a book, and take your time…
One final note: here’s a fascinating (if you’re a nerdy tree and history lover like me!) academic paper on the Cedars of Lebanon and Phoenicians. Enjoy!
Have you ever traveled somewhere because of a plant?
(Hey, I might just give you a gold star if your answer is yes… A gold star and a plant-nerd high-five.)