Native to: Eastern Asia (China, Taiwan, Korea)
Camphor tree was introduced into Florida in 1875. It was imported to Florida as an ornamental and for use on plantations for camphor production. In its native range, it is used for oils and timber, however it was not profitable for growers in Florida. It escaped cultivation and has spread into natural areas where birds are the main method of dispersal. Birds readily eat the seeds which are produced in large quantities during the winter and spring months in Florida.
A quick way to positively identify camphor is to crush the leaves or peel a twig or bark, which releases the scent of camphor.
Camphor tree can be found throughout Florida, Georgia, and western Texas. These trees readily invade dry, disturbed areas, such as roadsides. Camphor tree also invades natural areas, such as scrub, hardwood hammocks, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, floodplains, lake, stream and spring shores. The Florida jujube, Ziziphus celatus, is an endangered native species in Polk County that is being pushed out by camphor tree. This species is also spread by wildlife such as birds and other animals that eat the fruit, spreading the seed to different areas.
Camphor trees are spread into natural areas by seeds. Mature trees can produce up to 100,000 seeds each year, which are consumed by a variety of birds and spread to other areas. While camphor tree is still available in garden centers and nurseries, it should not be purchased.
Camphor tree is not recommended by UF/IFAS. The UF/IFAS Assessment lists camphor tree as invasive in north and central Florida and a species of caution in south Florida. FLEPPC lists camphor as a Category l invasive species due to its ability to invade and displace native plant communities.
Preventing the spread and establishment of camphor tree is the first step in a successful management plan. Since the fruit is the primary means of spread, controlling trees before maturation and fruit development is critical. Given this, large trees with heavy fruit potential should be eliminated first. However, since birds spread the seeds, constant monitoring will be necessary to keep this species in check.
Some native alternatives to replace camphor with inculde, Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), red bay
(Persea borbonia), sand live oak (Quercus geminata), live oak (Quercus virginiana) and winged elm (Ulmus alata).
Camphor tree generally invade open or disturbed areas – following a burn, clearing mowing, etc., so these areas are particularly vulnerable to invasion. Therefore, a healthy ecosystem with good species diversity will help to deter infestation. Disturbed areas should be monitored frequently and camphor trees should be removed from all landscapes.
Mechanical control is particularly effective on seedling trees when smaller equipment can be used to remove/destroy the plants. Mowing will kill seedling trees and continuous mowing will eventually kill resprouting shoots from a cut-stump treatment. Discing or other mechanical tillage will kill small plants but may encourage subsequent re-infestation due to disturbance. Burning may also provide good control of camphor tree, but repsrouting will likely occur on larger trees. Physical removal of seedlings and young trees is also another tactic, although this may be labor intensive. Care should be taken when removing small trees.
There is limited research and data on biological control of camphor tree.