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Camphor Laurel

Cinnamomum camphora (L.) J. Presl

Brief Summary

    Cinnamomum camphora: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia
    "Camphorwood" redirects here. For the Australian tree also known as Camphorwood, see Cinnamomum oliveri.

    Cinnamomum camphora is a species of evergreen tree that is commonly known under the names camphor tree, camphorwood or camphor laurel.

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors
    Cinnamomum camphora, camphor or camphor laurel, is a large evergreen tropical tree in the Lauraceae (laurel family), native to China, Taiwan, and Japan but now cultivated and occasionally naturalized in many tropical regions worldwide, from which is derived a volatile oil used medicinally as an antiseptic and local anesthetic, as well as in respiratory inhalations. The tree is also harvested for its beautifully grained wood, used in furniture, cabinetry, and interior finishes in buildings. The camphor tree is a large, handsome tree, with a broad oval crown, that grows up to 30 m (100 ft) tall and 3 m (nearly 10 ft) in diameter. It has alternate, somewhat leathery leaves, oval to elliptical, 6 to 12 cm (2.5 to 4.75 cm) long, with acuminate tips (narrowing to a point). The inconspicuous yellow or greenish-white flowers, which are tubular with 6 lobes, grow in panicles (clusters) that are shorter than the leaves. The fruit is a small, globose, fleshy berry, less than 1 cm (0.25 to 0.5 in) in diameter, that ripens to purple black and is partly surrounded by a cup-like perianth (developed from the outer parts of the flower). The whole plant has a strong scent from the camphor oil, an aromatic terpenoid compound, which occurs in the bark, twigs, and leaves. Camphor was traditionally used in Chinese, Middle Eastern, and medieval European cooking, to flavor sweets and other dishes; culinary uses are still common in Asia, particularly in India. Camphor may be more widely known for its medicinal uses, as an antimicrobial substance and cough suppressant. When applied to the skin, it produces a cooling sensation, so it is an active ingredient (along with menthol) in various anti-itch creams and nasal inhalations; it is also used in aromatherapy. Camphor is also used as a plasticizer for nitrocellulose, as a moth repellant, in embalming, and in fireworks. Solid camphor releases fumes that form a rust-preventative coating, so the crystals are sometimes stored in tool chests. Camphor trees grow readily in southern California and other parts of the southernmost U.S., and are planted as street trees or, occasionally, as specimen or ornamental trees in parks and gardens. It has become naturalized in some areas, and is classified as invasive in Florida. (Bailey et al. 1976, Flora of China 2012, Wikipedia 2012.)

Comprehensive Description

    Cinnamomum camphora
    provided by wikipedia
    "Camphorwood" redirects here. For the Australian tree also known as Camphorwood, see Cinnamomum oliveri.

    Cinnamomum camphora is a species of evergreen tree that is commonly known under the names camphor tree, camphorwood or camphor laurel.[1]


    Cinnamomum camphora is native to China south of the Yangtze River, Taiwan, southern Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, and has been introduced to many other countries.[2] It grows up to 20–30 m (66–98 ft) tall.[2] In Japan, where the tree is called kusunoki, five camphor trees are known with a trunk circumference above 20 metres (66 ft), with the largest individual, Kamō no Ōkusu (蒲生の大楠, "Great camphor of Kamō"), reaching 24.22 m.[3]

    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 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter. Its pale bark is very rough and fissured vertically.


    Camphor grove in Hong Kong

    C. camphora is 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.


    Main article: Camphor

    Camphor is a white crystalline substance, obtained from the tree C. camphora. Camphor has been used for many centuries as a culinary spice, a component of incense, and as a medicine. It is also an insect repellent and a flea-killing substance.

    Chemical constituents

    The species 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, and borneol. In China, field workers avoid mixing chemotypes when harvesting by their odour.[4][5] The cineole fraction of camphor laurel is used in China to manufacture fake "Eucalyptus oil".[6]

    The chemical variants (or chemotypes) seem dependent upon the country of origin of the tree. e.g., C. 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. C. camphora grown in Madagascar, though, is high in 1,8-cineole (averaging between 40 and 50%). The essential oil from the Madagascar trees is commercially known as ravintsara.[7]

    Invasive species

    In Australia

    C. camphora in the public Botanic Gardens in Adelaide, South Australia
    Camphor laurel in fruit at Turramurra railway station, Australia

    Camphor laurel was introduced to Australia in 1822 as an ornamental tree for use in gardens and public parks. It has become a noxious 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.[8] 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,[citation needed] 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.

    In the United States

    Introduced to the contiguous United States around 1875, C. camphora has become naturalized in portions of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and South Carolina.[9] It has been declared a category I invasive species in Florida.[10]

    Insect herbivores

    In Australia, two native Lepidoptera insects, the purple brown-eye and common red-eye, larval stages feed on camphor despite it being an introduced plant.[11]

    See also


    1. ^ Camphor - The Wood Database
    2. ^ a b 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..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
    3. ^ "Kamou no Ohkusu". Wondermondo.
    4. ^ 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.
    5. ^ Lawrence, B. M., 1995. ‘Progress in essential oils’, Perfumer and Flavorist, 20, 29-41.
    6. ^ Ashurst, P.R., Food Flavorings, 1999
    7. ^ Behra, Burfield (May 2009). "Ravensara/Ravintsara Bibliography v1.01" (PDF). Compiled by CropWatch v1.01.
    8. ^ Noxious weed declaration for NSW
    9. ^ "Plants Profile: Cinnamomum camphora". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
    10. ^ Forest Starr; Kim Starr; Lloyd Loope (January 2003). "Cinnamomum camphora" (PDF). United States Geological Survey: Biological Resources Division. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
    11. ^ Wells,A., Edwards,E.D., Houston,W.W.K., Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea, Papilionoidea, Volume 31, CSIRO, 2001.