Camphor Tree

camphor treeTake a close look at the Camphor tree at the top of this article.  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.”

 The 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 treeOf 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.

camphor treeThis 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.

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.

11 thoughts on “Camphor Tree”

  1. I recently visited Galveston Island to visit some of the art galleries. I found a number of wooden sculptures that were sculted from camphor. The wood had striking colors that really made it stand out. When I asked about the type of wood, and was informed that these pieces were all carved from the camphor trees that were victims of huricane Ike. I thought the pieces were beautiful and wondered if this wood is conside and hard or soft wood and does anyone make furniture from this wood.


  2. I have a tree about 6 feet tall. It’s trunk & branches are dark green. My neighbor says it’s a Camphor tree. Are they right?

  3. We have two camphor trees in our yard. We planted one 17 years ago, and it is beautiful. They are grate for shade. We planted another one 3 years ago, and it’s taller then me now, and I’m 5’10. My grandmother also has one in her yard, and she told me when they bought that house over 60 years ago, that tree was already there. It’s very old, and still beautiful. When it says take care of the little ones that growing, you need to, because once it starts, and the root gets to long, will not be able to get rid of it. You have to have a big yard, to plant one of them.

  4. There seems to be two types of Camphor trees in Florida, one grows to be quite large and the other type doesn’t grow much over 15 ft, and has a different bark, have you heard of this

  5. I bought a home in Fla. with a Camphor tree in the front yard about20/25′ from the house. It’s a lovely tree pruned to a more upright tall than a large wide spread. I’m concerned about the roots and closeness to the house, but I don’t want to cut it down as it gives valuable shade.

  6. Please! Never plant a camphor tree!!! This is the most invasive tree, our property is overrun with seedlings everywhere, the ones that have grown on the vacant property nearby, actively try to kill the slower growing native trees by choking out their sunlight. In ten years time a camphor can kill a native live oak tree, and we fight to keep them cut back all year long here. Our native insects don’t feed on camphors, so there are fewer birds around too. There are thousands of these trees that sprout every year, all year long here, (South Alabama), and now they are in the woodland areas. Yes, it’s a beautiful tree, but it belongs in its native land.

  7. I just endured Hurricane Michael this past fall, and it wiped out about 80% of our trees. The only ones left standing are some native pines, landscaped crape myrtles, landscaped palm trees, and then the camphors. I have two in my yard three in my yard that are standing tall and strong and two babies (sprouts only a couple feet). The storm took 17 of my 21 trees (including my beloved cedar and some gorgeous shade tree), and I’m not keen on removing the three well-established camphors. On the other hand, those sprouts I was considering transplanting (since one’s near my septic and one’s literally touching the house). Should I not transplant these baby trees since they’re invasive? I desperately need shade and my area desperately needs trees fast, but I want to be responsible. Anyone have any advice for me? Also, since it’s Class 1 Invasive Species, is it something illegal to even intentionally plant in Florida (thus illegal to transplant)? Thanks in advance for any guidance!


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