St Marks College: Camphor Laurel

This tree, in the grounds of St Marks College, Pennington Terrace, North Adelaide, was planted in the 1860s. It is in good health and a representative of early Adelaide garden tree choices. Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora, Syn. Officinalis) otherwise known as the camphor wood or camphor tree, is native to China, Taiwan, southern Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It was first recorded by the western world in 1727 and has since been introduced to many other countries as an ornamental parks and gardens tree.

It came to Australia in 1822, where it has become a noxious weed throughout Queensland and central to northern New South Wales, because it is suited to the wet, subtropical climate. Cinnamomum is derives from the Greek kínnamon, and related to the Hebrew qinnamon, and camphora derives from the French word camphre, itself from Medieval Latin camfora, but ultimately from Old Malay kapur barus meaning "the chalk of Barus", an ancient port on the western coast of Sumatra island, Indonesia.

It is a slow-growing medium-sized tree reaching 15-18m height. The leaves emit a characteristic camphor odour, and camphor oil is distilled from its wood. It is also a culinary spice, and a component of incense, a medicine and a flea-killing insecticide, a smokeless gunpowder and celluloid.
In Japan, five camphor trees are known with a trunk circumference above 20 m, with the largest one reaching the circumference of 24.22 metres. This one is 16 metres tall and has a spread of 24m. It is registered as a tree of state significance because of its early choice as a garden tree and because it is notably tall and an outstanding example of its species.