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Tarchonanthus camphoratus - L.

Common Name Camphor Bush, Wild Camphor Bush
Family Asteraceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats A common plant of the savannah biome, dry forest margins or secondary deciduous bushland, woodland and wooded grassland often dominant or co-dominant and commonly associated with Acacia spp. and Adansonia digitata[303 ].
Range Eastern Africa - Ethiopia and Somalia, south to S. Africa. Also in Angola and Botswana.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Tarchonanthus camphoratus Camphor Bush, Wild Camphor Bush

Tarchonanthus camphoratus Camphor Bush, Wild Camphor Bush
Abu Shawka wikimedia.org


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Commonly found in Africa, Tarchonanthus camphoratus is a small tree or shrub growing about 6 m in height and 40 cm in bole diameter. It is much-branched with a narrow crown and gray, cracked bark. It is a dioecious species. Leaves are narrowly oval with white covering underneath. Fruits are achene. The leaves emit a strong smell of camphor. It can be chewed or smoked, or made into tea. Medicinally, the plant is used as a treatment for respiratory problems like bronchitis and coughs, sore feet and tired legs, clogged sinuses, headache, heartburn, stomach problems, toothaches, dermatitis, bedsores, etc. The wood is fragrant, close-grained, durable, and contains high amount of essential oil.

Physical Characteristics

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Tarchonanthus camphoratus is an evergreen Tree growing to 7 m (23ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Tarchonanthus abyssinicus Sch.Bip. ex Schweinf. & Asch. Tarchonanthus litakunensis DC. Tarchonanthus

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses: Tea

The leaves have the taste of camphor[46 , 301 ]. They are chewed, smoked or taken as a snuff[46 , 303 ]. They are slightly narcotic[495 ]. A tea is made from the leaves[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antianxiety  Antiasthmatic  Antidermatosic  Antispasmodic  Antitussive  Deodorant  Diaphoretic  Narcotic  
Odontalgic  Resolvent  Skin  Stomachic  Tonic

The plant is used as a treatment for bronchitis and other chest ailments; for chilblains, tired legs and sore feet[303 ]. Problems such as blocked sinuses and headache can be healed by inhaling the smoke from the burning green leaves[295 ]. The leaves are antispasmodic, diaphoretic, narcotic, resolvent and tonic[46 , 494 , 495 ]. An infusion is used in the treatment of stomach ailments, heartburn, asthma and over-anxiety[46 , 303 ]. Drinking a boiled mixture of leaves and water can help to treat coughing, toothache, abdominal pain and bronchitis[295 ]. The leaves can also be used for massaging body stiffness[295 ]. The essential oil obtained from the leaves has been found to have excellent cosmetic and dermatological properties specially as soothing, anti-irritation, decongestant remedy for sensitive skins, dermatitis, sunburns, bedsores, etc[303 ]. The root is an ingredient of tonic soups[301 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Deodorant  Essential  Fire retardant  Fuel  Hedge  Insecticide  Repellent  Shelterbelt  Soil conditioner  Soil stabilization  Stuffing  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Camphor bush has an extensive root system and can be used for dune fixation and prevention of soil erosion by wind and water[295 , 303 ]. The tree is drought and fire resistant and can be used to reclaim dry lands[303 ]. Its resistance to fire is remarkable, little mortality is seen even after three burnings, making it ideal for firebreaks[303 ]. The plant is wind firm and amenable to trimming. It can act as a tall hedge and windbreak for low winds[295 , 303 ]. The slow decomposing leaves improve soil fertility[303 ]. Other Uses The essential oil extracted from leaves is the safest and most effective natural product for protection from mosquitoes, midges and many kinds of biting insects[303 ]. The product, containing only 0.3% of the active ingredient, is effective for 6 - 10 hours, therefore guaranteeing protection even for an entire night[303 ]. In Europe, the imported oil has been used in several cosmetic products since 1994[303 ]. The leaves of the plant are carried as a deodorant[303 ]. The cotton wool like seed heads have been used to stuff cushions[303 ]. The wood is close-grained, heavy, termite resistant[46 , 303 ]. It is recommended for musical instruments, joiner's fancy work, general utensils etc[46 , 303 ]. Provides a high quality fuel wood, burning well even when green[303 , 396 ].

Special Uses

Coppice  Food Forest  Hedge  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant mainly of the drier tropics and subtropics, it is found at elevations from around sea level to 2,750 metres[303 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 17 - 33°c, but can tolerate 8 - 38°c[418 ]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -2°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 300 - 600mm, but tolerates 150 - 800mm[418 ]. Requires a sunny position[418 ]. Tolerant of a range of soils, preferring deep soils but also commonly found on stony soils in the wild[303 , 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[418 ]. The plant is drought tolerant, and can also withstand seasonal waterlogging[303 ]. Plants are tolerant of salt-laden winds[295 ]. In its natural range the wild camphor bush is an invasive colonizer[303 ]. The plant is drought hardy, highly resistant to burning and cutting and can become a troublesome weed[418 ]. The plant has a moderate growth rate of around 600 - 800mm/year[303 ]. Young plants transplant easily[295 ]. The tree responds well to coppicing, which is an important management practice[303 ]. The leaves have a strong smell of camphor[295 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required[303 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring Late Summer/Early Fall Mid Fall. Bloom Color: White/Near White Cream/Tan.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - traditionally, it is sown in situ[303 ]. The seed takes about 56 days to germinate[303 ]. Wild collected seedlings are transplanted into gardens[303 ]. Cuttings of young wood[303 ]. These cuttings usually require rooting hormone to help them root[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Kifungu, Korumbati, Ligcebe lelimhlophe, Mhugwe, Mpavu, ! abusa, ! dhogga, !abusa, african fleabane, basterysterhoud, camphor bush, camphor wood, fahlbusch, g! o, g!o, igqeba-elimhlophe, isiduli, kamferbos, kamferhout, kampferbusch, karambaki wood, kashengwe, kifungu, kikongo, korumbati, mathola, mhatla, mhugwe, mkalambati, mkorumbati, mofahlana, mohata, mohathla, mohatlha, moologa, mpavu, mseza, muhogwe, okandote, ol elelescho, ol laluhwa, ol leleshwa, omuteatupa, omutiatupa, omùtiatúpà, qoboqobo, sage wood, salie, saliehout, sefahla, setswana, siduli-sehlathi, sieriehout, supree, umgebe, umngebe, umnqebe, vaalbos, veld-vaalbos, wild camphor bush, wild cotton, wild sage, wilde salie, wilde-salie, wildekanferbos, |dhogga.

Botswana; Ethiopia; Kenya; Namibia; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zimbabwe; South Africa, Africa, Angola, Arabia, Botswana, Central Africa, East Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

The plant is drought hardy, highly resistant to burning and cutting and can become a troublesome weed[418 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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