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 50 to 70-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 this is 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.
Scientific name: Cinnamomum camphora
Pronunciation: sin-uh-MOE-mum kam-FOR-uh
Common name(s): camphor-tree
USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Figure 2)
Origin: native to eastern Asia
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: invasive and not recommended (North and Central); caution, may be recommended but manage to prevent escape (South)
Uses: screen; shade; urban tolerant
Height: 40 to 50 feet
Spread: 50 to 70 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: ovate, obovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen, fragrant when crushed
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: dark green and shiny on top, glaucous and silvery underneath
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: greenish white
Flower characteristics: not showy; emerges in clusters on panicles
Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: 1/3 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy drupe
Fruit color: green to black
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; showy; typically one trunk; no thorns
Bark: brown to gray, becoming increasingly furrowed and rigid with age
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thin, medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
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
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.
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.
Camphor-Tree is subject to a root rot, especially in poorly-drained soils.
Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.