Articles

Cinnamomum camphora (L.) J.S. Presl

Cinnamomum camphora (L.) J.S. Presl

Family

Lauraceae

Synonyms

Laurus eamphora L., Cin­namomum camphora (L.) Siebold, C. cam­phora (L.) Nees & Ebermaier.

Vernacular Names

English

Camphor tree, Japanese camphor tree, Chinese sassafras.

Indonesia

Kamper, kapur barus, nanang.

Thailand

Opchoai-yuan (General), phromseng (Northern).

Vietnam

C[aa]y long n[ax]o.

French

Camphrier, laurier a’ camphre.

Geographical Distributions

Cinnamomum cam­phora occurs naturally in Japan, the Ryukyu Is­lands, south of the Yangtze river in China, Hainan, Taiwan and Vietnam. It is cultivated in many tropical and subtropical countries including Southeast Asia. It has become naturalised in Australia, where in wetter areas, it is considered a weed.

Description

Cinnamomum camphora is a large, evergreen and fragrant tree which can reach up to 15(-30) m tall. Its root system is extensive and shallow. The trunk is short and stout. The bark is deeply furrowed. The crown spreads up to 30 m wide. It has brown twigs, yellow­ish or pinkish when young and hairless. The buds are stout, ovoid, hairy and with many imbricate scales.

The leaves are arranged alternate and aromatic. The petiole is 1.5-3 cm long and slender. The blade is broadly ovate-elliptical to oblong lance-shaped, measuring 5-12 cm x 2-7 cm, obtuse at base, with slightly undulate margin, acute or acuminate at apex, char­taceous, deep green, shiny, hairless above, hairless or sparsely hairy beneath, with 3 main veins and 2 conspicuous, impressed glands at vein axils. The major veins are prominent on both sides.

The inflo­rescence is an axillary, many-flowered panicle and up to 7 cm long. The pedicel is 1-1.5 mm long and smooth. The small flow­ers are bisexual. The 6-lobed perianth is tubular, membranaceous and partly persistent in fruit. The lobes are ovate, measuring 2.5-3 mm x 1 mm, obtuse, yellowish-green, hairless outside, hairy inside and transversely torn off near the base. There are 9 fertile stamens in 3 whorls that are pubescent. The 1st and 2nd whorls are without glands, with oblong anthers, measure 0.5 mm long and introrse, while the 3rd whorl is with 2 subsessile, ovate glands at the base and ex­trorse anthers. The 4th innermost whorl consists of 3 glandless staminodes, ovoid and with short filaments. The anthers open upwards by flaps. The ovary is su­perior, ovoid, subsessile and smooth. The style is up to 2 mm long.

The fruit is a compressed-spherical berry, which is 7-10 mm in diametre, violet-black when ripens and one-seed­ed.

The seed is 6-7 mm in diametre.

Ecology / Cultivation

The natural habitat of Cinnamomum camphora is primary forests, but occasionally it also occurs in open sites, up to 3000 m altitude, though below 1000 m is considered optimal. In West and Cen­tral Java, it is cultivated at 600-1500 m altitude. It flourishes in warm temperate to subtropical cli­mates, but also under tropical highland condi­tions. Mature trees can withstand frost to -5°C, but young trees often succumb to it. In its natural habitat, annual rainfall ranges between 1000­-3500 mm; higher rainfall is tolerated on free draining soils as Cinnamomum camphora with its shallow root system does not tolerate waterlogging. In ar­eas with very high rainfall or after prolonged peri­ods of very heavy rain, the camphor content of the essential oil is low. Unshaded trees have the high­est essential oil content. Trees growing in the shade and even shaded leaves of a specific tree usually have lower essential oil and camphor con­tents. Fertile, well-drained sandy loams are most suitable for cultivation of Cinnamomum camphora. Soil type affects both the essential oil content and its com­position. Trees on lighter soils tend to have high­er essential oil content. Neutral to slightly alka­line (pH 6.5-8) soils are preferred for plantations.

Line Drawing / Photograph

BOT00376

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  1) Essential Oil

References

  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.19: Essential-oil plants.