Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) is a large tree whose leaves give off a distinctive, strong camphor smell when crushed.
  • A native of Asia, it is widely naturalised in Australia, although it is most commonly found in coast south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales.
  • Seeds are mainly spread by birds.
  • It can quickly take over native and agricultural lands, promoting erosion and poisoning baby fish, invertebrates and tadpoles.
  • Saplings and older trees are best controlled with a combination of physical removal and chemical treatment.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) is a large, spreading tree often growing more than 20 m high. The bark is greyish-brown in colour, gives off a strong odour and has a scaly or fissured texture. The leaves are hairless, alternately arranged, have a glossy upper surface with duller underside and are oval to broadly egg-shaped with three distinct veins at the base. They are 4–10 cm long and 2–5 cm wide with small depressions on the lower surface (domatia) between the bases of the 3 main veins. The leaves give off a distinctive camphor smell when crushed. The young leaf buds are enclosed within distinctly overlapping scales.

The very small whitish coloured flowers have six 'petals' 1.5–2 mm long, arranged in two whorls, which are arranged in small branched heads at the ends of branches. The fruit are 8–10 mm across and resemble berries, turning from green to black as they mature.

These glossy fruit are attached to the stem via a cone-shaped cup about 5 mm across (Navie 2004; Harden 2007; Thorp & Wilson 1998–).

For further information and assistance with identification of Camphor Laurel contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Planted as an ornamental in subtropical and warmer temperate regions, Camphor Laurel has subsequently become a weed in neglected areas around habitation, bushland, rainforests, moist woodlands, pastures and particularly along waterways (Muyt 2001; Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Camphor Laurel has several closely related species which are similar in appearance; however, these can easily be distinguished by the fact that their leaves do not give off a strong camphor smell when crushed. An exception is Oliver's Sassafras (Cinnamomum oliveri) which does have a strong camphor smell, but it can be distinguished by its relatively narrow leaves which are oppositely arranged, compared to Camphor Laurel whose leaves are relatively broad and alternately arranged (Muyt 2001; Navie 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: An aggressive species, Camphor Laurel is capable of dominating many habitats. Its wide canopy and extensive roots system eliminate virtually all other vegetation under the canopy. This, along with its shallow root system, promotes soil erosion, particularly along stream banks. Nevertheless, the berries have also become an important food source for native birds, which play a vital role in the distribution of seeds (NCWAC 2003). Camphor is obtained from the tree by distillation and the timber is used for clothes storage boxes and woodwork (Harden 2007).

Agriculture: Recent studies have shown its fruit, seeds, leaves, roots and bark to be toxic to aquatic life, such as tadpoles, fish fingerlings and invertebrates. It is a weed of dairy farms and other agricultural lands, taking over pastures and pushing over fences. It is known to discolour milk if cows are allowed to graze the foliage. Older trees develop extensive root systems which can block drains (Muyt 2001; TSSC 2003; NCWAC 2003; Land Protection 2006).

How does it spread?

Camphor Laurel reproduces by seed, which are mostly dispersed by birds, but also by water and other animals. Infestations are common under power lines, fence lines and other places where birds perch. Suckers can also be produced, particularly when trees are cut down or poisoned (Navie 2004).

What is its history in Australia?

Camphor Laurel was introduced into Australia as an ornamental plant from Asia in 1822 and was commonly planted in gardens, schools and cemeteries and used as a street tree. It has been widely planted in New South Wales since the mid nineteenth century (Muyt 2001; Land Protection 2006).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

With all methods of control it is important to ensure any regrowth is also treated and re-checked on a regular basis (Muyt 2001; Land Protection 2006).

Non-chemical control: Manual control: Seedlings and young plants of Camphor Laurel can be dug out by hand or grubbed.

Chemical control: Established trees are hard to control due to their tendency to sucker profusely when damaged and will need chemical treatment. This can be achieved by cutting down the tree and painting the wound, drilling into the crown below the soil and inserting herbicide and or cutting into actively growing tissue around the circumference of the tree with an axe and immediately inserting herbicide in the wound.

Please see the Australian pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information at http://www.apvma.gov.au

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Camphor Laurel trees take seven years to mature, with large trees producing over 100,000 seeds. Plants flower in mid-spring with fruit ripening to black in autumn. Seeds have an impressive 70% viability which is improved with ingestion by birds or exposure to water. Seeds remain viable in the soil for up to three years. Plants can live for over 400 years with some in Australia estimated to be over 100 years old (Muyt 2001; NCWAC 2003).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

A commonly grown ornamental, Camphor Laurel has a fairly wide naturalised distribution. It is most common in coastal south-east Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales and can also be found in other parts of coastal New South Wales and in south-western Western Australia and in isolated parts of Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory (Navie 2004).

Where does it originate?

Camphor Laurel is a native of China, Japan and Taiwan (Navie 2004).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Cinnamomum camphora

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Cinnamomum camphora (L.) T.Nees & C.H.Eberm.
  • Cinnamonum camphora G.J.Harden & L.J.Murray (incorrect spelling)
  • Laurus camphora L.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Camphor Tree, Gum Camphor, True Camphor, Japanese Camphor, Formosa Camphor, Shiu Leaf

Blackberry – a community-driven approach in Victoria

Blackberry the weed (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) was first introduced to Australia by European settlers in the mid-1800s as a fruit. It was recognised as a weed by mid-1880s. Blackberry is a serious issue across Australia. It is estimated that blackberry infests approximately 8.8 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of $103 million in annual control and production losses.

Read Case Study