Native to China and Japan. Grows slowly to 50 ft. or taller and 60 ft. wide. Typically a strong-structured tree with a heavy trunk and heavy, upright, spreading limbs. Beautiful in the rain, when the trunk looks black. Aromatic, 2 1/2–5-in.-long leaves smell like camphor when crushed. New foliage in early spring is pink, red, or bronze; matures to shiny yellow green. Inconspicuous but fragrant yellow flowers bloom profusely in late spring, followed by small blackish fruits.
Though evergreen, camphor drops leaves quite heavily in early spring; flowers, fruits, and twigs drop later. Plant where litter will not be a problem. Competitive roots also make this tree a poor choice near garden beds and paved areas; roots may invade sewer and drainage lines as well. In desert zones, it is sometimes affected by salt burn.
This tree is subject to verticillium wilt. Symptoms are wilting and death of twigs and branches, even the entire tree; diseased wood shows brownish discoloration. No cure is known, though trees often outgrow the problem. To treat, cut out diseased branches, apply nitrogen fertilizer, and water it in well.
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