Brief Summary

Cinnamomum, cinnamon, is a genus of 250 to 300 or more tropical and subtropical evergreen tree and shrub species in the Lauraceae (laurel family) that are often characterized by aromatic oils in the bark and leaves. The genus includes at least five species that are used to produce the spices cinnamon and cassia, as well as essential oils, which are generally obtained from the inner bark:

1) C. verum (formerly C. zeylanicum), “true cinnamon,” or Sri Lanka or Ceylon cinnamon, which originated in Sri Lanka, and is sometimes considered to have the most delicate flavor.

2) C. aromaticum (formerly C. cassia), cassia or Chinese cinnamon, which has a stronger flavor but is less expensive, and is often sold as cinnamon; cassia accounts for most of the spice sold as “cinnamon” in the U.S.

3) C. burmannii, Korintje or Indonesian cinnamon, from Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

4) C. loureirii, Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon, from Southeast Asia.

5) C. tamala, Indian cassia or cinnamon, from the Himalayas (Bhutan, India, Nepal, and the Yunnan province of China), which is the commonly used in Indian cooking.

The names “cinnamon” and “cassia” cause considerable confusion, as they are often used interchangeably. In the U.S., the spice produced from the dried, ground bark of any of these species is referred to as “cinnamon,” without distinguishing among species. In addition, “cinnamon” may also refer to the spice obtained from the aromatic bark of an unrelated species, Canella winterana (in the Canellaceae).

In addition to the species that are the sources of the spices cinnamon and cassia, the genus also includes C. camphora, camphor or camphor laurel, from which is derived a volatile oil used medicinally as an antiseptic and local anesthetic, as well as in respiratory inhalations.

Cinnamomum species vary in size and form--some grow to heights of 30 m (100 ft) or more, while others are smaller, 9 to 12 m (30 to 40 ft)—but all have leathery leaves with a waxy coating, generally alternate to sub-opposite but in some species opposite. Bark, branches, and leaves all contain aromatic compounds. Flowers are small and tubular, yellow or white, with 6 lobes, either unisexual or bisexual (perfect), and generally occur in axillary panicles (clusters that grow where leave join to branches). The fruit is a small, fleshy berry, partly surrounded by a cup-like perianth (developed from the outer parts of the flower).

Most Cinnamomum species originated in the Old World tropics, in Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia, but there are some New World species (formerly classified as the genus Phoebe) native to South and Central America, and southern North America. Several of the commercially used species are now grown in tropical areas worldwide, and have naturalized beyond their native ranges.

(Bailey et al. 1976, FAO 2012, Flora of China 2012, Hedrick 1919, van Wyk 2005.)

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Comprehensive Description


Evergreen trees and shrubs. Leaves opposite or alternate, usually strongly 3-veined from the base, sometimes smelling strongly of camphor. Inflorescence of axillary or terminal panicles. Flowers bisexual, sometimes unisexual. Perianth-tube short with 6 equal lobes. Stamens 9 in 3 whorls. Fruit a berry, surrounded by an enlarged cup-like perianth.
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Source: Flora of Zimbabwe


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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:298
Specimens with Sequences:360
Specimens with Barcodes:277
Species With Barcodes:58
Public Records:176
Public Species:47
Public BINs:0
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Barcode data

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Cinnamomum is a genus of evergreen aromatic trees and shrubs belonging to the laurel family, Lauraceae. The species of Cinnamomum have aromatic oils in their leaves and bark. The genus contains over 300 species, distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of North America, Central America, South America, Asia, Oceania, and Australasia. The genus includes a great number of economically important trees.


This genus is present in Himalayas and other mountain areas and is present in tropical and subtropical montane rainforest, in the weed-tree forests, in valleys, and mixed forests of coniferous and deciduous broad-leaved trees, from southern China, India, and Southeast Asia. Some species, such as Cinnamomum camphora, tolerate drought.


All species tested so far are diploid, with the total number of chromosomes being 24.[1] This Lauraceae genus comprises more than 270 trees and shrubs and most are aromatic. Some trees produce sprouts. The thick, leathery leaves are dark green, lauroid type. Laurophyll or lauroid leaves are characterized by a generous layer of wax, making them glossy in appearance, and narrow, pointed oval in shape with an 'apical mucro', or 'drip tip', which permits the leaves to shed water despite the humidity, allowing respiration from plant.

Mostly, the plants present a distinct odor. Their alternate leaves are ovate-elliptic, with margins entire or occasionally repand, with acute apices and broadly cuneate to subrounded bases. Upper leaf surfaces are shiny green to yellowish-green, while the undersides are opaque and lighter in color. Mature leaves are dark green. Young leaves are reddish brown to yellowish-red. The leaves are glabrous on both surfaces or sparsely puberulent beneath only when young; the leaves are mostly triplinerved or sometimes inconspicuously five-nerved, with conspicuous midrib on both surfaces. The axils of lateral nerves and veins are conspicuously bullate above and dome-shaped. Terminal buds are perulate.

The axillary panicle is 3.5–7 cm long. It is a genus of monoecious species, with hermaphrodite flowers, greenish white, white to yellow are glabrous or downy and pale to yellowish brown. Mostly the flowers are small. The perianth is glabrous or puberulent outside and densely pubescent inside. The purplish-black fruit is an ovate, ellypsoidal or subglobose drupe. The perianth-cup in fruit is cupuliform.

Selected species[edit]

Cinnamomum parthenoxylon and Cinnamomum camphora are large evergreen trees that can grow to 30 m in height and 3 m in diameter, with broadly ovate crowns. Terminal buds are broadly ovoid or globular, and covered with sericeous scales. Bark is yellowish-brown with irregular vertical splits. Branches are light brown, cylindrical, and glabrous.

Cinnamomum tree in a 10th-century Arabic manuscript

The inner bark of several species is used to make the spice cinnamon. Other notable species are C. tamala, used as the herb malabathrum (also called tejpat and Indian bay leaf), and C. camphora, from which camphor is produced.


  1. ^ Ravindran, P. N.; K. Nirmal Babu; M. Shylaja (2003). Cinnamon and Cassia: The genus Cinnamomum. CRC Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-415-31755-9. 

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