wood name

BOTANICAL NAME: Cinnamomum spp. of the family Lauraceae (the laurel family). Most often mentioned are the three species C. camphora (syn Laurus camphorifera), C. iners, and C parthenoxylon

NOTE: in this single fact sheet, I have combined reports on all three species but I point out where there are differences.


C. camphora: camphor, camphor laurel, camphor tree, camphor wood, camphorwood, cinnamon wood, dalchini, formosan camphor, gondhori (india), hmanthein (burma), japanese camphor, kalingag (philippines), karawe, kayu (sabah), kusunoki (japan), ohez, zhang mu, zhangmu (china)

C. iners: camphorwood, camphur wood, cinnamon, cinnamonwood, cinnanmon, dalchini, gondhori, hmanthein, hmanthin, kadeu, kajoe tedja, kalingag, karawe, kayu, kayu manis, kayu manis hutan, kemangi, kitedja, kusunoki, lelang, medang, ohez, singga betina, tedja, teja badak

C. parthenoxylon: bunsod, camphorwood, chintamula hitam, cinnamonwood, dalchini, gadis, gondhori, hmanthein, kajoe gadis, kajoe lada, kalińgag, karawé, kayu gadis, kayu lada, kayu, kepaleh, keplah wangi, ki-serch, ki-sereh, kipedes, kisereh, kusunoki, laso, madang lesa, madang loso, madeu, marawali, medang busok, medang gatal, medang kemangi, medang losoh, medang sahang, medang serai, medang, merang, ohez, palio, parari, pelarah, peluwari, rawali, selasihan, theptharo

TYPE: an evergreen hardwood (no that's not a contradiction in terms, although it is relatively rare). All of the live oaks are evergreen hardwoods as well.

COLOR: Heartwood color reports are all over the map, but I believe that's because there really IS a great variety of color variation among the trees in Cinnamomum spp. and even between trees in the same species --- reports focus on red and reddish brown but also include yellowish-gray, olive-gray, reddish-gray, brownish-gray, red, orange brown, or light brown. the sapwood is white or yellowish white, occasionally with a pinkish tint, and not clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

GRAIN / TEXTURE / FILLER / FINISH / LUSTER: An oily wood with a waxy look, often figured. Grain may be straight or interlocked, texture is low-medium to fine, luster is medium to high. paints, varnishes and polishes quite well. The oil is corrosive to ferrous metals so be careful not to leave the wood on machine surfaces.

PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: C. camphora and C. parthenoxylon are easy to saw and they work well with both hand and machine tools with very little blunting effect, finishe smoothly, glue, screw, and nail well with good holding power, sand easily with a good finish, and respond well to all machining operations. C. inners is a somewhat tougher wood, with more difficulty in all machining operations. works easily with both hand and machine tools and has relatively little dulling effect on cutting edges. It yields clean, smooth surfaces in planing and all other machining operations. glues well, nails easily veneers well

DURABILITY: Variable with species; some species reported to be durable in ground contact and largely immune to insect attack, others have low durability are ARE susceptable to terminte attack. The heartwood is highly resistant to preservative treatment

STABILITY: low movement in service

BENDING: C. camphora, no reports; C. iners poor results

ODOR / TASTE: often fragrant with odors of camphor, anise oil, or other scents, without distinctive taste. The scent is said to persist for hundreds of years.

SOURCES: Native to Japan and China, it is now successfully grown in other parts of the world including California, Australia, and parts of South America. Other specific countries mentioned include Burma, India, North and South Korea, Malasia, South AFrica, and Sri Lanka

USES: In the Far East it is highly prized for clothes chests, trunks, and wardrobes. Like aromatic red cedar, it has a (scientifically dubious) reputation for repelling moths and other insects. Koreans also use the burl in elaborate frame and panel wall coverings. Other uses include balusters, baskets, bedroom suites, blinds, boat building (general), boxes and crates, building construction, building materials, cabinetmaking, canoes, carvings, caskets, ceiling, chairs, chemical derivatives, chests, coffins, concealed parts (furniture), construction, decorative plywood, desks, dining-room furniture, dowell pins, dowells, drawer sides, excelsior, figured veneer, fine furniture, floor lamps, food containers, fuelwood, furniture, furniture components, furniture squares or stock, hatracks, interior construction, joinery, kitchen cabinets, light construction, living-room suites, millwork, moldings, musical instruments, office furniture, paneling, planks, plywood, poles, radio - stereo - tv cabinets, rustic furniture, shutters, sills, sporting goods, stair rails, stairworks, stools, stringers, tables, toys, trunks, turnery, tv cabinets, utility furniture, veneer, wainscotting, wardrobes

TREE: grows to heights of 60-100 feet with straight or irregular boles up to 40ft and diameters of 2-4 feet.

WEIGHT: reports on all three species are all over the map, from 23 to 45 lbs/ft3, but mostly averaging around 38lbs/ft3

DRYING: C. camphora dries readily with a slight tendency to warp, C. iners reportedly has more problems in drying, with some splitting and distortion, C parthenoxylon reportedly exhibits resin exudation and some tendancy to warp and/or check

C. camphora: volumetric shrinkage is 7.4%.
C. iners: Radial 4%, Tangential 7%, Volumetric 11%

AVAILABILITY: Small quantities of Camphor-tree, almost entirely in veneer form, are available on the world market. For small projects, some material is available from tropical and sub-tropical regions, such as Florida, where the tree is planted and cut down when it gets old. Occassionally, larger pieces, usually slabs, are available. Large planks are rare because of the shape of the tree.

COST: high

TOXICITY: none reported

web quotes:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

An east Asian evergreen tree (Cinnamomum camphora) naturalized and cultivated as an ornamental in the southern United States, having aromatic wood and leathery leaves that are a source of camphor oil.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Trees in this group are cultivated for cinnamon spice, natural camphor, and other aromatic oils.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Found in both Northern and Southern Chinese furniture. It is considered a good wood by Chinese because of its density, grain, and the repellant quality to bugs (similar to cedar.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

One of the oldest spices, Chinese cinnamon (cassia), is produced in the bark of C. cassia. Another species is used medicinally and in the manufacture of explosives!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Camphor, a once important oil before it was synthesized, is obtained by wet distillation of the wood and leaves. 20-40 pounds of chips produce about 1 pound of camphor oil. The oil is used for hardening nitrocellulose plastics and is also used in pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, and in explosives.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

At one time it was a capital punishment for illegally cutting down a tree.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sailor’s chests were formerly made from or lined with camphorwood because it was believed to have preservative properties.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Camphor burls are extremely rare and most of the world’s production goes to Japan where it is sliced into veneers for automobile dashboards and other decorative accessories. Large areas of wild trees once grew in Japan and Taiwan but these have largely disappeared through over-exploitation for camphor production in the years up to the Second World War. In the U.S., it is most commonly naturalized in north and central Florida, but also escapes cultivation in southern peninsula.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Naturalized also in Georgia and west to Texas. Cultivated as well in other southern states: Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and the Carolinas, and in southern California. By 1997, documented as locally common in the flora from Texas to the Carolinas.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Some timber from this species is reported to be available from sustainably managed or other environmentally responsible sources.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In Viet Nam the species is found in tropical evergreen rainforests up to 700 m altitude, on sheltered slopes, growing on deep well-drained fertile soils.