Camphor Laurel: Beautiful Timber but a Bit of a Pest

A fenceline of Camphor Laurel
Flickr photo by John Tann shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), originally from China and Japan, was introduced to Australia in the early 1800s as an ornamental shade tree. Over time, it has become known for its dual nature: an ecological pest and a valuable resource. This article explores the history, ecological impact, management, and practical applications of Camphor Laurel, highlighting its transformation from an invasive species to a homeware essential.

History and Spread

Camphor Laurel was introduced to Australia in the early 1800s for ornamental purposes. The tree quickly spread, particularly in the eastern states of New South Wales and Queensland. By the mid-1800s, hybridization had resulted in a more invasive species that aggressively colonized cleared and disturbed lands. Today, Camphor Laurel is widely distributed, with heavy infestations in regions such as Lismore, Tweed, Byron, Ballina, and parts of the Orara Valley west of Coffs Harbour. It continues to spread southward and westward.

Ecological Impact

Camphor Laurel exhibits several characteristics that make it a formidable invasive species. It produces many seeds, grows rapidly, and forms dense, single-species communities that exclude native vegetation. Its shallow, dense root system and shading canopy suppress the regeneration of native seedlings, destabilizing soil and stream banks. This tree's presence poses significant challenges to native ecosystems, as it outcompetes native species and is mildly toxic to both humans and animals. Its invasion of agricultural lands has also led to decreased productivity and increased control costs.

Biosecurity and Management

Camphor Laurel is classified as a noxious weed in many parts of New South Wales and Queensland, subject to strict regulations and restrictions. Efforts to control its spread include mechanical removal, chemical treatments, and biological controls. However, these measures are often costly and challenging due to the tree's ability to regenerate easily and its widespread distribution. Effective management requires ongoing efforts and cooperation between landowners and government agencies.

Practical Applications

Despite its ecological drawbacks, Camphor Laurel has found a valuable niche in producing homeware and kitchen products. The wood contains antimicrobial oils that make it particularly suitable for food preparation surfaces. Studies have shown that Camphor Laurel boards harbour minimal fungi and bacteria compared to plastic, glass, and other wood. This makes it an excellent material for cutting boards, salad bowls, and other kitchen items.

At Australian Woodwork, we actively participate in eradication programs, sourcing Camphor Laurel timber to create durable, kiln-dried products that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Our Camphor Laurel Products

Long Multi-Purpose Wood Board

Mullumbimby Long Multi Purpose Board

This multipurpose board is made from a solid piece of Camphor Laurel, ideal for serving fruit, cheese, bread, and other foods. Its antibacterial properties and unique organic shape make it a practical and attractive addition to any kitchen.

Camphor Laurel 30cm Salad Bowl

Camphor Laurel 30cm Salad Bowl

The fine-grained, water-resistant, and naturally antibacterial qualities of Camphor Laurel make it perfect for a salad bowl. This handcrafted bowl features a classic design and can also double as a fruit bowl, accommodating up to six people.

Oval Trinket Boxes

Oval Trinket Boxes

These elegant oval trinket boxes are made from fragrant Camphor Laurel and other figured timbers. They feature a side-swing opening and are finished with a durable soft gloss, making them perfect for storing small items or as a thoughtful gift.

Small Oval Trinket Boxes

Small Oval Trinket Boxes

Similar to the larger version, these small oval trinket boxes are made from Camphor Laurel and are ideal for presenting jewellery or keeping everyday items in one place. Their petite size and elegant design make them a charming addition to any collection.

Benefits of Camphor Laurel Homeware

Camphor Laurel's antimicrobial properties make it an excellent material for homeware, particularly in the kitchen. The wood's natural oils help reduce the presence of fungi and bacteria, providing a safer surface for food preparation. Additionally, Camphor Laurel items are aesthetically pleasing, with a variety of sizes and shapes available to suit different kitchen needs. The wood is also long-lasting and resistant to warping, ensuring that these products remain functional and beautiful.

Environmental and Economic Considerations

The utilization of Camphor Laurel in homeware products not only addresses its invasive nature but also contributes to sustainable practices. By sourcing timber from eradication programs, companies help reduce the spread of this invasive species while promoting native regeneration. This approach aligns with environmental sustainability goals and provides economic benefits.

From an economic perspective, the cost of controlling Camphor Laurel can be substantial. However, converting the timber into valuable products offsets some of these costs. The timber's antimicrobial properties and aesthetic appeal make it a desirable material for various applications, adding economic value. Encouraging the use of Camphor Laurel in homeware can create a balance between ecological management and economic viability.


Camphor Laurel represents a complex case of an invasive species that has found a beneficial role in modern homeware. Its journey from being an ecological pest to becoming a valuable resource demonstrates the potential for innovative solutions in environmental management. By harnessing the antimicrobial properties and unique beauty of Camphor Laurel, we can mitigate its negative impact while creating high-quality, functional, and sustainable homeware products.

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