082 775 1224 / kerryn@cjmgrowers.co.za

The Largest Selection of Indigenous Species in any Nursery in KZN.

Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.

Tarchonanthus camphoratus

Tarchonanthus camphoratus

  • Wild Camphor bush

  • Camphorwood

  • Hottentot tobacco

  • Wilde Kamferbos (A)

  • Vaalbos (A)

  • Kamferhout (A)

  • igqeba emlimhlophe (Z)

  • mofathla (T)


  • A shrub or small tree, very common on the African continent, with a slender and often attractively gnarled or crooked trunk and beautiful silvery-grey leaves. The branches, which are enveloped in a flocculent mantle of soft white hairs when young, often arch conspicuously upwards to give the tree a lovely, compact V-shape. The leaves are oblong, pastel emerald above, grey and densely woolly beneath, with strong venation, and exude a potent, aromatic camphor smell when handled. Spikes of dainty, starry, thistle-like flowers are produced en masse and are followed by small, furry fruits. It has a plethora of accredited medicinal and cosmetic uses across its wide distribution and is one of our toughest indigenous trees.

SA Tree

  • 733


  • Asteraceae (Daisy, Aster, Thistle family)

  • This is one of the largest and most widely represented plant families in the world, with just more than one tenth of all flowering plants belonging to it.

  • Consisting of over 1620 genera with somewhat 23600 species which include trees, herbs and shrubs.

  • Very few members teach tree size, in SA, only about 9, but over 2000 species of flowering plants and shrubs occur country-wide, from forest, bushveld to desert.

  • Plants in this family have either simple, or occasionally compound leaves, arranged alternately, and bear either daisy or thistle like flowers.

  • These flowers are often grouped into compact flowerheads that superficially resemble individual flowers.

  • Each such head is enveloped by an involucre of miniscule bracts (leaf-like structures)

  • Many garden ornamentals such as cosmos, marigolds, dahlias and chrysanthemums belong to this family, as well as weeds such as the Blackjacks.


  • This is a remarkably adaptable and widespread species that has can be found in nearly all parts of southern Africa, from the coast to elevation of just over 1600 m.

  • It can be found in coastal bush and dune scrub, open and wooded grasslands, bushveld thickets, woodland areas, forests (wet & dry), and their margins, as well as semi-desert, karroid areas and mountainous slopes.

  • It is a prevalent species in Natal, Transkei, Limpopo, North-West, Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape and also Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and further north into Africa.


  • The main stem is typically bare, short or tall, with a crooked, gnarled appearance and a diameter of between 200-400 mm.

  • The bark is brown-grey, often rough textured, with shallow or deep (older trees), vertical ridges that have a faintly fibrous appearance.

  • It sometimes can be seen peeling or flaking in large or long strips.

  • Young twigs and branches are covered with a fine layer of woolly white hairs, which diminishes as they mature, and they have a rather drooping habit at first.


  • Evergreen.

  • The leaves are alternately arranged, narrowly oblong-elliptic or oblanceolate to narrowly obovate (1.5-15 x 0.8-4 cm).

  • They are dull to dark olive or grey-green and wrinkled above and light whitish-grey and velvety beneath due to a layer of fine fluffy hairs.

  • Young leaves have a layer of fine, downy hairs on both surfaces.

  • The leaves have a soft yet firmly leathery texture.

  • The net-veining is quite distinct on both surfaces, depressed above, raised below, with numerous golden glandular-globules along the veins.

  • The margins are undulating and entire or very finely toothed.

  • The leaf tips are subacute obtuse or rounded and the bases are somewhat wedge-shaped.

  • The petiole is typically quite short (1-12 mm).

  • When crushed or bruised, the leaves emit a strong smell reminiscent of camphor.


  • The flowers are individually quite small (10-12 mm), creamy white to grey-yellow or pale brown, and are carried on branched panicles at the tips of twigs.

  • The flowerheads are covered with a soft layer of white woolly hairs and measure up to 90 x 50 mm.

  • This species of Tarchonanthus is dioecious (male and female parts on separate trees); male florets are in heads of 10-25, while female florets are significantly fewer, only 3-5.

  • Depending on the location and environmental conditions, flowers can be produced sporadically throughout the year, but flowering tends to peak between December and May in southern Africa.


  • A small, (10-12 x 6-9 mm), dry, one-seeded, non-dehiscent nutlet, covered with a dense layer of white or yellowish woolly hairs, resembling a cotton wool-ball.

  • June – September but can often be seen almost throughout the year depending on locality.


  • 2 – 9.5 m


  • 1.5 – 4 m


  • The leaves and twigs of this plant are mostly used.

  • The leaves are smoked (slightly narcotic), chewed or taken as a snuff, and have shown antispasmodic, diaphoretic and decongestant effects.

  • A volatile oil can be extracted from the leaves which has shown antibacterial and antifungal activity.

  • This essential oil has shown promise as an additive in cosmetic products due to its soothing, anti-irritant properties, making it ideal to use for treating sensitive skins, bedsores, insect bites, sunburn and dermatitis.

  • The fumes from crushed leaves can be inhaled, as well as the smoke from burning fresh leaves, and this is said to help clear blocked sinus’, relieve headaches, asthma and rheumatism.

  • Infusions and tinctures made from the leaves and twigs (typically by boiling them in water), are used to treat coughs, bronchitis, stomach complaints and pains, heartburn, over-anxiety, headache and toothache.

  • A hot poultice is also made from the leaves, and this is usually put on the chest to give relief from headaches, lung complaints and inflammation.

  • A topical ointment is made to treat stiffness, sore and tired muscles and bodily aches.

  • In certain African cultures, the women make perfumed body and hair washes or ointments from the aromatic leaves.


  • The wood is greyish-brown, close-grained, durable, hard and quite heavy, as well as fragrant (rich in aromatic oils), and termite-proof.

  • It takes a good polish and has been used in the construction of musical instruments and smaller, fancy articles, general utensils and cabinetwork, as well as the construction of boats.

  • The poles make durable fencing posts.

  • The wood retains its camphor smell for a long time and has been used to make grain storage containers and as an insect repellent.

  • It also makes a good firewood and burns even while still green.


  • Be careful when handling the wood, as splinters are reputed to be poisonous, and may cause septic sores which tend to heal with difficulty.

  • They have aggressive albeit small root systems and should not be planted too close to permanent structures.

  • In some natural settings, they have become invasive colonisers.


  • The flowers attract a vast number of honeybees, insects and butterflies.

  • The insects in turn will lure insectivorous bird species.

  • Although the leaves are occasionally browsed by animals such as giraffe, wildebeest and various small and large antelope, this is typically only done during times of scarcity and drought.

  • The fluffy seeds are often used by birds to line their nests.


  • A generally low-maintenance, resilient species suited to a large variety, even very demanding and adverse landscaping conditions.

  • It can be grown in windy, cold, warm and coastal areas with little difficulty.

  • It is quite fast growing, wind resistant, with a naturally shrubby growth habit and responds very well to coppicing, making it a good choice for a sturdy and dense screen, hedge or windbreak, especially in coastal gardens.

  • Its extensive root system is able to bind sandy soils very effectively, and it is often used to stabilise dunes and prevent excessive soil erosion by wind and water.

  • It has all the features required for a good shelterbelt – dense, almost ground-level foliage, multitudinous stems, and is amendable to trimming.

  • Makes an excellent bonsai subject.

  • Remarkably resistant to fire damage, and able to rapidly recover from any damages suffered, making it the ideal choice for a firebreak.

  • With its grey-green, shimmering foliage, it makes an interesting, attractive yet subtle addition to a background foliage setting.

  • When in flower, the entire tree often becomes wreathed in clouds of scented blooms, and it attracts many honeybees and other insects and also makes an eye-catching focal point or specimen tree.

  • Can be trained into a lovely shade giving tree in smaller gardens.

  • When leaf shedding occurs, the leaves often make a good mulch that helps improve soil quality and nutritive value.


  • An extremely tough, pioneer-like species that is suited for planting in even the most climatically extreme areas of our country.

  • Tarchonanthus can withstand very cold conditions, even frost, and should be able to recover without too much damage from temperatures as low as -2°c.

  • Young plants should however be given adequate protection from extremes in temperature in colder areas for at least their first 4 or 5 seasons.

  • It can survive even in very dry, windy and warm areas, tolerating temperatures of up to 40°c.

  • It can endure the relentless onslaught on strong, salt-laden coastal winds as well as periods of heavy drought.

  • It is resistant to burning and can reshoot from the base after being severely damaged by fire, often with vigorous regrowth from below the ground, thus being able to form compact, dense clumps.

  • The Camphor Bush is also able to endure through very wet periods or seasonal waterlogging of the soil.

Growth Rate

  • Moderate to fast, between 500 – 800 mm per year.


  • This shrubby tree prefers a sunny position, but will tolerate very light, dappled, “woodland” shade.

Soil & Water

  • This tough small tree can grow in a variety of soil types and qualities.

  • In its natural habitat, it prefers deep, rich and well-drained soils, but it is also often found growing on stony, shallow and somewhat clay soils.

  • It can be grown successfully in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, as well as slightly saline types (coastal areas).

  • It does prefer a neutral or a slightly alkaline soil, but also tolerates acidic soils. moderate to low water needs, 1-2 deep drenching’s per week, depending on rainfall and temperature.

  • During the active summer months, more water may need to be given, as well as when young and freshly transplanted.


  • Tarchonanthus can be propagated from seed, cuttings or wild collected seedlings.

  • Seeds should be sown in early spring as they often take more than a month to germinate (40-56 days).

  • Sow the seeds in a well-drained, nutrient rich medium of washed river sand and compost (2:1), and place in a warm, temperate and brightly lit area.

  • Keep the soil moist by misting it often but allow adequate time for it to dry out to prevent damping off.

  • Softwood cuttings, taken from actively growing twigs of preferably the previous seasons growth, can be treated with a rooting hormone and placed into a mixture of milled bark and sand.

  • Mist them often and roots should soon appear.



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