Do you know how camphor is made? You may have heard about camphor oil and those waxy, white cubes that smell nice. Camphor cubes are flammable and burned to release that intoxicating medicinal aroma that is considered holy in many religions including Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. I never knew till recently that these camphor cubes or essential oil are actually a natural product derived from the bark of the Camphor tree or Cinnamomum camphora. Not that the regular camphor that we buy nowadays is pure or derived from real camphor wood, but the natural camphor is derived mainly from the bark of the camphor tree.
When I found this tree in one online nursery, I quickly jumped to buy it. And today, I’m going to show you this tree and we will talk about caring for it. It is not a home garden type of tree unless you have a huge garden. This tree gets really huge and can grow up to 50–70 feet tall. In fact, there are some amazing camphor trees throughout the world that are really old and very huge. But, I’m just going to grow it for fun in a container. Time will tell how this works out for me. While researching this tree, I came across many interesting facts and folk stories. So let’s find out what they are.
Botanical Name of Camphor Tree
It is known by various names like Camphor, Kapur, Kapur, Kafur; mainly the variations of the term camphor.
Camphor trees are native to China but they are distributed throughout many Southeast-Asian countries. They have been introduced in many countries throughout the world.
Camphor Trees are easy to grow trees.
Camphor can easily be grown as an ornamental plant. in the US it is mainly grown for its ornamental value.
The tree grows a variety of soils including well-draining loamy, clay, or sandy soil that is acidic or alkaline. But it grows better in little acidic soil that is rich with organic matter.
Camphor tree is frost/ temperature sensitive and doesn’t survive when the temperature drops down below 20°F or -6°C. It grows well in temperature between 50–75 °F
Camphor trees can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or root cuttings but the propagation is mainly done by seeds. The seeds can be germinated first and then planted in the ground or direct sown. Germination of the seeds requires a good amount of moisture. If grown by direct sowing method, the land has to be grass-free otherwise the growing grass will soak up all the moisture and the germination won’t happen.
Germination time for camphor seeds is about 3–5 months.
You can see this baby tree is growing new leaves. The twigs of these new branches are beautiful red in color. The new leaves and twigs are reddish in color but as they mature they turn green.
According to one research document that I found, In the south, the tree typically has two growing seasons and two dormant periods. The two growth periods start at the beginning of February and May if that is when you get rain. The tree likes moist temperate weather. The tree loses leaves in hot temperatures in summer and again in late fall when the winter begins. But then, there are some other resources that do not mention two growing periods and two dormant periods. Instead, they say that the new growth begins in spring ie between March-April when it rains and the tree goes dormant in fall just like the other trees.
This is the first time, I’m growing this tree, and will be protecting it from extremes of temperature because it is going to be a container tree. So, possibly, the tree will remain evergreen throughout the year. I just have to plan for a big container I guess. So, if you have a temperate climate then I believe that the tree should stay evergreen throughout the year. We will find out as this one grows.
Camphor trees have an extensive root system. They have taproots that grow very far and that is the reason they can be a nuisance if you plant it and later want to get rid off it. It is not going to be an easy task. So, before planting, you should think about a permanent spot for the tree. You should also give it enough space for them to grow because they can grow to 40–50 ft tall and their spread can be 50–70ft.
Trunk, Stem, & Branches
The trees that are grown from seeds grow to about a foot or a foot and a half in the first year. And the growth rate increases after that. In the second year, the tree grows up to 2–3 feet tall and the branching also occurs. Many times these initial branches grow into a full-grown tree-like structure with a furcation in the center resulting in a wider base close to the ground. I think that is why the tree is much sturdier than some other trees. In Japan, there are many such very old and huge trees that are preserved, and shrines are built under them. You can find some beautiful videos of these trees on youtube. I would definitely love to see them in person sometimes.
There is the tendency for these trees to form a bulgy structure near the base of the main trunk that is called lignotuber. That makes the trunk look wider at the base. I have a Lemon Eucalyptus tree in a container and that also has a similar structure.
Flowering starts in the fall usually in September depending on the growing region. The flowers tiny and white in color. They occur in cluster
Fruits bearing starts after 7–8 years when the tree produces small berries like fruits. If the climate is good then the fruits will self propagate and that can be a problem. The fruit-bearing occurs typically in October-November
Common Pest and Diseases
Camphor trees attract several pests and disease pathogens but the most common are scales and mites. Big trees can also get attacked by termites.