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Publication #ENH326

Cinnamomum camphora: Camphor-Tree1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

This large, round-canopied, evergreen tree has broad, large-diameter, unusually strong branches and can reach 70 feet in height with a broader spread but is usually 40 to 50 feet with a 40 to 60-foot spread. The glossy green, thin but leathery leaves give off a camphor aroma when crushed and create dense shade. The stems and bark on young branches of Camphor-Tree are bright green, tinged with red when young, maturing into a dark grey-brown, rugged-looking trunk which appears almost black when wet from rain. Trunk and branch structure on older trees appear similar to mature live oaks. The inconspicuous, tiny, yellow flowers are followed by a profusion of small, black berries which can become an annoyance on walks and driveways because they are messy but are quite attractive to wildlife. Fruits will stain cars. Some occasionally germinate below the tree but not nearly as much of a problem as some other trees. Birds can also carry the seed to remote areas where it will occasionally germinate. The leaves, twigs, and wood are the commercial source of camphor. The dried bark of Cinnamomum zeylanicum yields cinnamon.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Cinnamomum camphora: Camphor-Tree.


Credit:

R.A. Howard. ©Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Richard A. Howard Photograph Collection. United States, HI, Oahu


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Cinnamomum camphora
Pronunciation: sin-uh-MOE-mum kam-FOR-uh
Common name(s): Camphor-Tree
Family: Lauraceae
USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Figure 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Cinnamomum camphora is invasive and not recommended in the north and central zone in Florida (to see if any exceptions for specified and limited use have been approved since publication, check the Conclusions Table at: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/conclusions.html). It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the south zone in Florida (counties listed by zone at: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/assess_counties.pdf)
Uses: screen; shade; urban tolerant
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 40 to 50 feet
Spread: 50 to 70 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: ovate, obovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen, fragrant
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: not showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: black
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thin, medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: low

Other

Roots: can form large surface roots
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Too big for all but the largest spaces, Camphor-Tree is ideal when used as a shade tree for parks or large landscapes. Use along streets should be tempered because messy fruits drop on sidewalks and cars. It might be considered for boulevard planting where cars do not park. Prune to develop major branches, space 18 to 30 inches apart along a central trunk to develop good structure. Do not allow major branches to grow from the same spot on the trunk and avoid upright, multi-trunked trees. It may be difficult to maintain a lawn beneath the dense shade of Camphor-Trees and a shade-tolerant groundcover may better suit the purpose. The trunk on older specimens grows to six feet or more in diameter and is quite picturesque. Allow plenty of room for proper development above and below ground. Shallow roots can be a nuisance. Has escaped cultivation in some areas.

Growing in full sun to partial shade, Camphor-Tree is amenable to a variety of soils, will grow but often develops minor element deficiencies on alkaline soils. Camphor-Tree is highly tolerant of urban conditions but will not tolerate water-logged soils. It is adapted to grow along the coast exposed to some sea salt.

The cultivar `Monum' has larger, richer green foliage.

Propagation is by seed.

Pests

Scales and mites are common problems on Camphor-Trees. Seeds can germinate easily in the landscape but this is usually a minor problem. Has escaped cultivation in Florida, Louisiana, and parts of coastal Texas, so use it (if at all) with caution.

Diseases

Camphor-Tree is subject to a root rot, especially in poorly-drained soils.

Literature Cited

Fox, A.M., D.R. Gordon, J.A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R.K. Stocker. 2008. IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Cited from the Internet (November 16, 2012), http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/status_assessment.pdf

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH326, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised February 2013. Reviewed June 2016. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.