Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tarchonanthus camphoratus (Wild camphor bush)

Tarchonanthus camphoratus is an attractive small tree with pleasing grey- green foliage that can withstand particularly tough conditions, making it suitable for even the most environmentally demanding situation. The extremely decorative, strongly scented panicles of woolly white seed heads cover the tree for many months giving interest for most of the year. In the wild, where the Camphor bush tends to grow in thickets, it is generally smaller and bushier than those grown as single specimens in the urban landscape or when found growing with other trees, where they can reach 9m in height and develop an interesting bent trunk. In it’s natural habitat, Tarchonanthus camphoratus is browsed by giraffe, kudu, impala and springbok.


Botanical Name
Tarchonanthus camphoratus
Common Name
Wild camphor bush
RSA National Tree No’


If you are landscaping a particularly challenging site and are looking for a tree that thrives on neglect, Tarchonanthus camphoratus should be your first choice, as it will do well in the windiest and driest areas as well as being completely unaffected by even the most severe frost. This delightful tree has a lovely v-shaped canopy and with it’s interesting grey-green foliage, creates an excellent foil for other plants. As the Wild camphor bush requires so little care, it is an excellent subject for street planting or for any other public area where a hardy tree is needed. In coastal gardens where conditions are always difficult, Tarchonanthus camphoratus can be used as an effective windbreak or can be trimmed into an attractive hedge. This hardy, moderately fast growing tree is popularly used for stabilizing sand dunes as well as for areas where erosion is a problem. As the Camphor bush has a strong root system it is very popular with Bonsai enthusiasts as some really interesting styles can be achieved.


Growth Habit
Tarchonanthus camphoratus is widespread in South Africa, growing on sandy soils in bushveld, grassland, forest and semi-desert.
The pale brown bark is rough with longitudinal fissures and peels off in long strips.
The narrow oblong leaves are dull green to grey-green above and whitish felted with prominent veining underneath. The margin is entire to finely toothed. When crushed the leaves give off a strong camphor aroma. 
The creamy-white flowers of the Camphor bush are carried on terminal panicles. Male and female trees are separate.
From March to November the attractive, strongly scented fruit appears as a small nutlet, covered in woolly white hairs, giving the appearance of tiny cottonwool balls.
The small seeds are covered with creamy hairs.


Growing regions
Tarchonanthus camphoratus is widespread from central Africa through west and east Africa right down to Namibia and South Africa.
Growing conditions
The Wild camphor bush needs no special care and does well even when used for the most challenging landscape applications.
Best season
 All year
This adaptable tree is extremely tough being able to withstand strong salt laden coastal winds, drought or heavy frost and will even shoot from the base after being severely damaged by fire.
Seed takes about 8 weeks to germinate but propagation from soft wood cuttings is highly successful.
Growth rate
Moderate, 600mm-800mm per year.


Tarchonanthus camphorates has been used medicinally by indigenous peoples for generations and is still used extensively today. The smoke from burning green leaves is inhaled to relieve sinus and headaches while a tea made by boiling the leaves in water is used for coughs, bronchitis, toothache and abdominal pain. The leaves are also used for body massage and as a deodorant by the Masai while Zulu women use them to perfume their hair. The grey-brown, close grained wood is hard and heavy and is used for musical instruments, fence posts, boat building and cabinet making.
T. camphoratus Flowers & Foliage   T. camphoratus Seed          T. camphoratus Fruit

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