- For the Australian tree also known as Camphorwood, see Cinnamomum oliveri.
|An ancient camphor tree (estimated to be over 1,000 years old) in Japan|
Cinnamomum camphora (commonly known as Camphor tree, Camphorwood or camphor laurel) is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20–30 metres tall. The leaves have a glossy, waxy appearance and smell of camphor when crushed. In spring it produces bright green foliage with masses of small white flowers. It produces clusters of black berry-like fruit around one centimetre in diameter. It has a pale bark that is very rough and fissured vertically.
Camphor laurel contains volatile chemical compounds in all plant parts, and the wood and leaves are steam distilled for the essential oils. Camphor laurel has six different chemical variants called chemotypes, which are camphor, linalool, 1,8-cineole, nerolidol, safrole, or borneol. In China field workers avoid mixing chemotypes when harvesting by their odour. The cineole fraction of camphor laurel is used in China to manufacture fake "Eucalyptus oil".
The chemical variants (or chemotypes) seem dependent upon the country of origin of the tree. The tree is native to China, Japan, and Taiwan. It has been introduced to the other countries where it has been found, and the chemical variants are identifiable by country. e.g., Cinnamomum camphora grown in Taiwan and Japan is normally very high in Linalool, often between 80 and 85%. In India and Sri Lanka the high camphor variety/chemotype remains dominant. Cinnamomum camphora grown in Madagascar, on the other hand, is high in 1,8 Cineole (averaging between 40 and 50%). The essential oil from the Madagascar trees is commercially known as Ravintsara.
Camphor is a white crystalline substance, obtained from the tree Cinnamomum camphora. Camphor has been used for many centuries as a culinary spice, a component of incense, and as a medicine. Camphor is also an insect repellent and a flea-killing substance.
Cinnamomum camphora is native to Korea Jeju, Taiwan, southern Japan, southeast China and Indochina, where it is also cultivated for camphor and timber production. The production and shipment of camphor, in a solid, waxy form, was a major industry in Taiwan prior to and during the Japanese colonial era (1895–1945). It was used medicinally and was also an important ingredient in the production of smokeless gunpowder and celluloid. Primitive stills were set up in the mountainous areas in which the tree is usually found. The wood was chipped; these chips were steamed in a retort, allowing the camphor to crystallize on the inside of a crystallization box, after the vapour had passed through a cooling chamber. It was then scraped off and packed out to government-run factories for processing and sale. Camphor was one of the most lucrative of several important government monopolies under the Japanese.
Cinnamomum camphora was introduced to Australia in 1822 as an ornamental tree for use in gardens and public parks, where it is commonly called Camphor laurel. It has become a weed throughout Queensland and central to northern New South Wales where it is suited to the wet, subtropical climate. However, the tree provides hollows quickly in younger trees, whereas natives can take hundreds of years to develop hollows.
It has been declared a noxious weed in many parts of Queensland and New South Wales. Its massive and spreading root systems disrupt urban drainage and sewerage systems and degrade river banks. Its leaves have a very high carbon content, which damages water quality and freshwater fish habitats when they fall into streams and rivers. The camphor content of the leaf litter helps prevent other plants from germinating successfully, helping to ensure the camphor's success against any potentially competing vegetation, and the seeds are attractive to birds and pass intact through the digestive system, ensuring rapid distribution. Camphor laurel invades rainforests and pastures, and also competes against eucalyptus trees, certain species of which are the sole food source of koalas. Koalas are now listed as "vulnerable" under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
In the United States
Introduced to the contiguous United States around 1875, Cinnamomum camphora has become naturalized in portions of the states of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and South Carolina. It has been declared a category I invasive species in Florida.
Propagate by seed. USDA Hardiness Zone 9B to 11. Camphor trees grow in full sun to partial shade. They tolerate clay, loam, sand, slightly alkaline to acidic soils, and drought. They need to be well drained or they may suffer from root rot.
- Cinnamomum kanehirae (Hayata) (stout camphor tree) niu zhang in Chinese (Chinese: 牛樟); it is endemic to Taiwan.
(Note: a camphor tree was named as Totoro's tree in the studio ghibli film, "My Neighbor Totoro".)
- Xi-wen Li, Jie Li & Henk van der Werff. "Cinnamomum camphora". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
- Hirota, N. and Hiroi, M., 1967. ‘The later studies on the camphor tree, on the leaf oil of each practical form and its utilisation’, Perfumery and Essential Oil Record 58, 364-367.
- Lawrence, B. M., 1995. ‘Progress in essential oils’, Perfumer and Flavorist, 20, 29-41.
- Ashurst, P.R., Food Flavorings, 1999
- Behra, Burfield, www.cropwatch.org/Ravensara-Ravintsara%20biblio%20v1.01.pdf
- Noxious weed declaration for NSW
- "Plants Profile: Cinnamomum camphora". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
- Forest Starr, Kim Starr, and Lloyd Loope (January 2003). "Cinnamomum camphora". United States Geological Survey: Biological Resources Division. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
- USDA Hardiness Zone
- E.F. Gilman & D.G. Watson Fact Sheet ST-167 Cinnamomum Camphora Nov. 1993
- Wells,A., Edwards,E.D., Houston,W.W.K., Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea, Papilionoidea, Volume 31, CSIRO, 2001.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cinnamomum camphora.|
- Camphor laurel fact sheet—Produced by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries
- Campaign to stop the spread of camphor laurels in Australia
- Six 400-800 years old Cinnamomum camphor polluted in China
- In China encourage planting Cinnamomum camphora