Camphor Laurel

Camphor Laurel

Common name Camphor Laurel
Botanical name Cinnamomum camphora
Family Lauraceae
Natural range Eastern Asia
Mature height to 30m
Form Large spreading canopy with think trunk
Likes Growing everywhere
Dislikes n/a
Where to plant Check first in case it’s on your state Weeds List
Known for Aromatic camphor oil smell when leaves are crushed

The Beguiling Story of Camphor Laurel: A Delight and a Dilemma
What Makes the Camphor Laurel Tick?

Often found spreading its majestic canopy high in the sky, the Camphor Laurel, scientifically known as Cinnamomum camphora, is an intriguing species belonging to the Lauraceae family. Native to the Eastern Asian region, this tree species grows enthusiastically, extending upwards to an impressive 30 metres when mature.

The Camphor Laurel’s resounding feature is its broad, large, and welcoming canopy, bolstered by a robust trunk. This tree has an uncanny knack for thriving in various locations, exhibiting a knack for growth that few others can rival. However, it’s important to check whether planting this tree is permissible in your area, as it’s identified as an invasive weed in certain regions.

A fascinating fact about the Camphor Laurel is the distinct aromatic camphor oil smell emitted when the leaves are crushed. This captivating fragrance, reminiscent of the East Asian woods it originally hailed from, adds a delightful note to any garden or landscape.

The Camphor Laurel’s Australian Adventure: An Unexpected Turn

Australia’s journey with the Camphor Laurel dates back to around 1822. Initially brought to the continent for cultivation in horticulturalists’ collections and botanical gardens, this tree was recommended as an ideal candidate for widespread planting.

As more and more forest land was cleared to make room for farming, the Camphor Laurel found itself rapidly filling the void as a preferred ‘replacement tree.’ Its admirable resilience made it a popular choice for windbreaks and to prevent soil erosion. It also served as an attractive ornamental addition to various gardens. You can still see many mature specimens gracing schoolyards and older established gardens across Australia.

However, as you might have guessed, the narrative takes a slightly unfortunate turn. Similar to numerous species introduced to Australia with optimistic expectations, the Camphor Laurel didn’t just feel at home; it virtually took over. Fast forward 100 years, and these trees are now recognized as a pervasive weed species in Queensland and New South Wales.

Why Is the Camphor Laurel Considered an Invasive Species?

These formidable trees have a tendency to aggressively invade open woodlands, rainforest margins, moist gullies, and watercourse banks. They form a dense canopy, gradually replacing indigenous species, thus disrupting local ecosystems. The extensive root systems of mature Camphor Laurels can cause havoc, blocking drains and causing cracks in pavements. The tree reproduces through seeds, which are conveniently dispersed by birds, further expanding its spread.

Interestingly, this aggressive behaviour isn’t as prevalent in Victoria. Here, the trees grow more slowly and aren’t considered as much of a weed species. Old gardens and parks in Victoria often feature broad, spreading Camphor Laurels, highlighting their ornamental charm in the right setting.

Beyond the Tree: The Many Uses of Camphor Laurel

Despite its troublesome tendencies, Camphor Laurel is treasured for its abundant gifts. It yields a honey-coloured timber, fresh-smelling and clean, favoured for furniture, carving, and cabinetry. In Taiwan, southern Japan, and southeast China, the tree holds cultural significance for its scent, oil, and crystallised blocks, widely used in religious ceremonies.

The unique characteristic smell of all camphor wood, which repels moths and other insects, makes it an ideal material for clothes cabinets. Not only that, but Camphor Laurel’s antibacterial properties also render it a perfect material for crafting chopping blocks for the home kitchen.

In summary, the story of the Camphor Laurel is a testament to the intricate balance of nature. Its beauty, aroma, and utility highlight why it was initially introduced and loved. However, its rapid and aggressive growth in certain areas underscores the caution needed in introducing non-native species. Like any good tale, the saga of the Camphor Laurel is one of delight and dilemma, caution and celebration.

Additional Resources and Further Reading

For readers interested in learning more about the Camphor Laurel and its impact, here are some resources that you may find helpful:

  1. “Camphor Laurel: Uses and Environmental Impact”
  2. “Growing Camphor Laurel Trees: The Pros and Cons”
  3. “Managing Invasive Weeds: A Case Study of Camphor Laurel”
  4. Camphor Laurel on the Australian Government Department of Health website
  5. Camphor Laurel on the Australia Weeds Committee website
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