The camphor tree or simply Camphor is an exotic plant that has been used in gardening for many years to embellish private gardens and public parks.
General characteristics of Cinnamomum camphora – Camphor tree
L’camphor tree, scientific name Cinnamomum camphora, is a species a plant of the family of Lauraceae native to Asia, spread spontaneously especially in Japan and China. It is cultivated for ornamental purposes in America, Australia, Europe and, in Italy it is widespread in the pre-Alpine regions of Northern Italy and is present in the southern ones characterized by a hot-humid climate.
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In the native countries, the camphor tree exceeds 40 meters in height while at different latitudes, in full vegetative development, it reaches a maximum of 20-30 meters. It is firmly anchored to the ground thanks to a robust root system which over time tends to expand even on the surface. In fact, in centuries-old trees, the aerial roots, as large as branches, form wonderful sculptures.
The trunk is sturdy and broad at the base then tapers towards the top. The young specimens have trunk and branches covered with a smooth and green bark while in the older and older ones it is greyish-brown.
There foliage, variously branched, it is expanded with a rounded shape, sometimes conical with very decorative persistent foliage.
The leaves they have an ovate shape; they are hairless with smooth margins, slightly pointed apexes and inserted on the branches with cylindrical petioles. They are born from reddish buds: they are pinkish when small and gradually, as they grow, they change color. The upper page of the leaves is bright green with 3-5 yellow veins while the lower one is opaque and yellowish green. The leaves are aromatic and, when rubbed between the fingers, give off a very characteristic smell.
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THE flowers, small and creamy-white, yellow or greenish in color, are collected in racemes or spiked inflorescences that sprout from the leaf axils and form on one-year-old branches. They are hermaphrodites and are pollinated by some species of butterflies and especially by Diptera (blue flies, flies and mosquitoes).
THE fruits, which appear immediately after flowering, are very decorative shiny blue-violet spherical berries that turn black when ripe. A particularly aromatic oil is extracted from this plant which is used both in pharmacopoeia and in herbal medicine.
THE seeds they are spherical, wrinkled and dark in color. If harvested fresh they can be used for sowing as they have a high germination capacity which is considerably reduced with drying.
In Italy the camphor tree blooms in late spring, from April to June depending on the climatic conditions.
Camphor tree cultivation – Cinnamomum camphora
She loves the heat, therefore, to obtain abundant flowering and abundant berries. If planted in partial or total shade, it slows down growth, produces few flowers and few berries. Adult trees do not fear low temperatures even if they persist for long periods in fact they tolerate temperatures below -10 ° C and short frosts very well. The foliage of young specimens is conspicuously ruined with late frosts.
It is a perennial and evergreen plant that grows in any type of soil even if it prefers soft, loose, well-drained ones with an acid pH. A compact and not very water permeable soil could cause root rot especially if the specimen is young.
It is also tolerant to drought. Generally, the well-rooted and planted camphor tree is satisfied with the rains and we intervene with an abundant supply of water in summer or during the flowering period if the climate is particularly dry. Regular and frequent watering should be practiced only if the plant is still young or has recently been planted in order to favor a more rapid rooting of the root system in the new home. Irrigation must be suspended in the autumn-winter period.
In the first years of the plant it needs an organic fertilizer buried in the well-worked soil. Subsequently, biennial or triennial fertilizations with a fertilizer for green plants are sufficient, every 2-3 years during autumn or at the end of winter.
Multiplication of the camphor tree
The plant reproduces by seed and is sometimes also propagated by cuttings or basal suckers.
Multiplication by seed
For sowing, fresh seeds are used to germinate in a specific substrate kept humid and at a constant temperature of 18 ° C. When the new seedlings are robust enough to be handled, they are transferred to single pots and raised in them until the moment of putting. permanent residence. Sowing gives excellent results.
Propagation by cuttings
Semi-woody cuttings taken from young branches with well-sharpened and disinfected shears are used. They are rooted in a mixture of sand and peat sand kept constantly humid until rooting has taken place.
Either way, if planted in optimal soil, growth is very fast.
Propagation by sucker
The camphor tree emits numerous well-rooted suckers on its feet that can be taken from the ground with the roots and immediately replanted in a sunny and spacious area. The best time for this method is late spring.
Planting or planting
Cinnamomum camphora settle permanently in spring or autumn. The soil intended to accommodate the plant must be lightened with peat, pumice or sand and enriched with mature organic fertilizer. Since the root system of this plant develops vigorously even on the surface, planting it near homes, pipes or tiled areas is not recommended.
The camphor tree does not need frastic pruning. In general, only dry branches are pruned, those that are too low and those broken by the wind are shortened a little.
Pests and diseases of Cinnamomum camphora – Camphor tree
It is a rustic plant, resistant to attacks by common animal parasites such as aphids and scale insects but sensitive to root rot if the cultivation soil is not sufficiently drained.
Cures and treatments
It does not require special care except in the first 2 years from planting. In areas where the winter is particularly harsh, it is advisable to cover the feet of the trunk of the young tree with a mulch of straw or dry leaves and cover the canopy with a breathable sheet (non-woven fabric). It does not need antiaficide or antifungal treatments.
Varieties and species of Cinnamomum
To this genus belong other species more known and used for food and in the perfume industry.
It is a tree commonly known as the cinnamon plant. It has a similar appearance to the camphor tree but with a nut-colored flaky bark used for the production of cinnamon, the most used spice in cooking and pastry.
Known as Japanese cinnamon, it is widespread in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and eastern China. It is an evergreen tree of medium size, about 15 m tall and a thin and erect trunk with a diameter of 30 – 35 cm. It has an elegant bearing and is grown as an ornamental in gardens. It is a protected plant because it is at risk of extinction.
It is an evergreen tree native to China, widespread and cultivated in many tropical areas. It is known as Chinese cinnamon. It has oval and elongated opposite leaves. It produces white flowers, gathered in inflorescences. The fruit is a drupe that contains a dark seed.
The camphor tree is widely used in gardening to embellish public parks and spacious private gardens for its elegance and because its remarkable evergreen and aromatic foliage creates vast areas of coolness especially in summer. In very large public parks it is planted singly or in rows.
For commercial purposes this tree is exploited for the production of camphor, a white crystalline substance with a strong and characteristic scent, used above all in the past, as a spice, in medicine and to obtain an aromatic oil, formerly also used for embalming and also an excellent repellent for insects, as an anti-moth and in particular against the red weevil.
Properties of camphor oil
Camphor tree camphor oil, extracted from tree leaves or bark, is used in herbal medicine and medicine as an antiviral, immunostimulant, and antidepressant. Diluted with an equal amount of sweet almond oil, it can be used to make massages useful for relieving muscle tension. Added to shea butter it is an excellent balsamic ointment in all cases of bronchial colds. A bath made with a few drops of camphor oil stimulates blood circulation and helps relieve rheumatic pains.
The camphor tree is considered by the Chinese the tree of immortality and by the Japanese the tree of life because it was the first plant to grow back in Hiroshima after the atomic bombing of the Second World War.