Camphor Tree

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Take a close look at the Camphor tree.  Wouldn’t you love to have this wonderful shade tree in your front or back yard?  Best of all, it keeps its leaves year-round.  This particular tree is found in the front yard of a house in Sacramento – known as “The City of Trees.”

camphor tree

The Camphor tree is classified as an evergreen tree in the Laurel family.  It’s native to Asia where they’re widely grown in China and Japan for the commercial harvesting of camphor oil.  It was brought to America in 1875 where it was grown on plantation farms for the production of the strong, odorous camphor oil which is harvested from its leaves and bark.

As you may or may not know, camphor is used as a liniment in products like Tiger Balm and is a mild analgesic used in certain medicines.  It also works as an insect repellant.  So, not only do you get a great shade tree but you can start your own online pharmacy with one of these trees growing in your yard.

You might be interested to know that the Camphor tree is the official city tree of Hiroshima, Japan.  After the city was destroyed at the end of WWII, this fast-growing tree helped bring the city back to life.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this wonderful tree.  And, if you do a Google search on it, you’ll discover that the Camphor tree is considered a Class 1 invasive pest in Florida.  But, old people from New York and college students during Spring Break could also be labeled Class 1 pests by one or more Florida-based organizations.  Texas also labels it as a Class 1 invasive plant.  It gets this rating because it is fast-growing and can displace other nearby shrubs and plants.

Plus, it is tough to get rid of should you tire of it.  If you have one in your yard you must be careful to quickly remove any “volunteers” you see growing elsewhere in your yard.  Cut the tree down and remove the stump and you’ll still find this tree trying to regrow itself.  It’s like the kids who return home to live after finishing college and refuse to leave.

While online, it’s possible that you might come across some blogs where the contributors either love or hate the Camphor tree.  It’s interesting to read what these folks have to say about this tree.  There doesn’t seem to be any middle grown – they either love it or hate it.

Those of us behind this website are on the “love” side of the camphor tree tug-o-war rope.  Perhaps it’s because we have two of these magnificent Camphor trees growing on our block and love looking at them on a daily basis.  The neighbors who own these Camphor trees love them as well.

camphor tree trimmed
Tightly trimmed camphor tree

Of the two different trees shown here, one has been trimmed on a couple of occasions to keep the canopy tight and confined.  Compare the one tree with the dense canopy to the other tree that’s never been trimmed.  Note the Camphor tree has a much more open canopy and spreads almost across the street.  Also note how close some of the larger limbs are to the ground.  This is what happens when you fail to remove the lowest limbs during the early years after planting the tree.

While we are not fans of constant trimming by untrained chainsaw jockeys, there are instances when careful, professional trimming is in order.  The camphor tree with the dense canopy was carefully trimmed four years ago by a team of men who crawled carefully out on each limb, minus any safety ropes, and removed only those limbs growing from the bottom of the larger limbs.  These guys were experts at trimming a Camphor tree and the photos show it.

So, you have a difficult choice to make if you are seeking a wonderful shade tree that keeps its green leaves all year round.  Because it is fast-growing and can grow quite large as seen by the untrimmed tree here, you cannot plant the Camphor tree close to your house, garage, or on a small lot.  You must give it lots of room to grow.

This is a problem we see often – a major problem.  People are anxious to plant trees in their yard and plant them too close together when they are saplings.  They fail to think ahead and envision what the tree or trees will look like 25-30 years down the road.

camphor tree wide limbs
Camphor tree from below

Our advice is to ignore all the naysayers about the camphor tree and plant one – just one – in the largest space in your yard – the location where it’ll give you the most amount of shade in the summer.  But, remember you must spend some money having a professional inspect and trim your young tree to ensure it ends up looking more like the dense tree and less like the untrimmed tree if your goal is a beautiful shade tree.

And keep a lookout for those pesky volunteers and remove them immediately.  Otherwise, you will end up with your own Camphor tree plantation.

How Fast Do Camphor Tree Grow

In my own home, I’ve found camphor trees grown from birds spreading their seeds to quickly go from seed to 4 or 5 feet in several months. Camphor trees will grow rapidly their first few years, then slow to 24 inches per year beyond that.

How Long Camphor Trees Live

The camphor tree can live anywhere from 50 to 150 years.

How to Grow Camphor Trees

Tree Site Conditions & Constraints

  • Sunset Zones 8, 9 and 12 – 24.
  • USDA Hardiness Zones 9 – 11.
  • Exposure Full Sun to Partial Shade.
  • Moist Soil.
  • Clay, Loam or Sand Texture.
  • Slightly Acidic to Highly Alkaline Soil pH.
  • Salinity Tolerance is Moderate on Coast.
  • Seaside Tolerance is Good in Mild Zone.

Pests & Disease Information

Susceptible to:

  • Anthracnose
  • Armillaria
  • Phytophthora
  • Root Rot
  • Verticillium

Health, Safety & Environmental Concerns

  • Branch Strength Rated as Strong.
  • Root Damage Potential Rated as High.
  • Allergy Health Hazard.
  • Biogenic Emissions considered Low.
  • Fire Resistance is Favorable.
  • Attracts Birds.

Cinnamomum Camphora

Cinnamomum camphora is the scientific name for the evergreen tree also known as camphor tree, camphorwood, or camphor laurel.

Growing up to heights of 100 feet tall, they can grow either tightly depending on how you trim them, or their limbs can become quite expansive. It is not uncommon for branch width to be in excess of 60 feet.

The camphor oil comes from the camphor tree, which is used as insect repellent, essential oil, and fake eucalyptus oil.

Their flowers in the spring are especially fragrant.

Camphor Trees Are Invasive

Introduced to Australia in 1822, the weed quickly became a noxious weed throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Fallen camphor trees precent other plants from growing and germinating, and the berries with their seeds are delicious to birds, providing rapid expansion.

Florida has categorized these trees as a Category I invasive species.

camphor wood

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