1. Tarchonanthus camphoratus L.

    1. This aromatic shrub regenerates vigorously after cutting or burning and can become a weed where farmers have cut down the original vegetation to make pastureland. It can grow in large stands and is so well-known and common in Kenya that it has given its local Maasai name (leleshwa) to a luxury camp in the Masai Mara, a winery in the Rift Valley and even the Nairobi suburb Kileleshwa! Cattle and antelope browse the leaves, but this gives a strange taste to their milk.

[FZ]

Compositae, G. V. Pope. Flora Zambesiaca 6:1. 1992

Habit
Dense shrubs or small trees up to c. 8 m. tall, with a strong camphor odour.
Trunk
Trunk up to c. 40 cm. in diam., bark greyish, fissured; twigs leafy, closely greyish- or pale brown-felted.
Leaves
Leaves subsessile or with a petiole up to c. 6 mm. long and tomentellous; lamina very variable in size c. 2 x 0.5 to c. 8.5(12) x 3.5(5) cm., narrowly oblong-elliptic, elliptic or oblanceolate to narrowly obovate, apex subacute obtuse or rounded, base cuneate, margins entire; upper surface glabrescent, finely tessellate-reticulate with numerous golden glandular-globules along deeply depressed veins; under surface white-felted, the tomentum ± obscuring minute golden glands, midrib and nerves prominent beneath.
Capitulum
Heads numerous in large leafy terminal panicles. Female capitula; involucres 3–3.5 x 6 mm., broadly turbinate to subglobose; phyllaries 2–3-seriate, imbricate, rotund to narrowly ovate, shortly connate at base or free, tomentose-araneose outside and often long ciliate about the upper margins; florets 4–5, corollas c. 1 mm. long, shortly funnel-shaped, lanate outside, stigma shortly bifid exserted; achene c. 2.5–3(4) x 1.5 mm., somewhat compressed ellipsoid, densely covered in a mass of long sericeous-woolly hairs. Male capitula; involucres 2.5–3.5 x 3.5–5 mm., broadly turbinate to shallowly cupuliform, phyllaries 5–6, ovate, connate below, sometimes also with several free shorter narrowly oblong-ovate phyllaries, tomentose-araneose outside; florets (3)10–25, corollas c. 2.5 mm. long broadly funnel-shaped, densely woolly outside, anther thecae 1.5–2 mm. long, exserted, style linear exserted by c. 1.5 mm. above the anther tube, ovary rudimentary.
Male
Male capitula; involucres 2.5–3.5 x 3.5–5 mm., broadly turbinate to shallowly cupuliform, phyllaries 5–6, ovate, connate below, sometimes also with several free shorter narrowly oblong-ovate phyllaries, tomentose-araneose outside; florets (3)10–25, corollas c. 2.5 mm. long broadly funnel-shaped, densely woolly outside, anther thecae 1.5–2 mm. long, exserted, style linear exserted by c. 1.5 mm. above the anther tube, ovary rudimentary.
Female
Female capitula; involucres 3–3.5 x 6 mm., broadly turbinate to subglobose; phyllaries 2–3-seriate, imbricate, rotund to narrowly ovate, shortly connate at base or free, tomentose-araneose outside and often long ciliate about the upper margins; florets 4–5, corollas c. 1 mm. long, shortly funnel-shaped, lanate outside, stigma shortly bifid exserted; achene c. 2.5–3(4) x 1.5 mm., somewhat compressed ellipsoid, densely covered in a mass of long sericeous-woolly hairs.
[FTEA]

Compositae, H. Beentje, C. Jeffrey & D.J.N. Hind. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2005

Habit
Shrub or small tree to 9 m tall, usually much-branched; trunk diameter to 40 cm; bark brown or grey, rough, longitudinally fissured, exfoliating in long strips; young stems densely clothed in white felt-like tomentum.
Leaves
Leaves shortly petiolate; petiole 0.2–1 cm long; blade narrowly to broadly elliptic or oblanceolate, 2–13.5 cm long, 0.4–4.5 cm wide, base cuneate or attenuate, margins entire, apex obtuse or subacute and shortly mucronate, discolorous, green and glabrous except for mid-rib above, felted with dense white or grey tomentum beneath, prominently pinnately veined, strongly camphor-scented when crushed; on coppice shoots may be larger and more tomentose above.
Capitulum
Capitula small, numerous in usually copious terminal compound open paniculoid thyrses, leafy in lower part with smaller bracts in upper part and yellow-brown tomentose when young, shortly pedicellate; involucres campanulate, 2.5–6 mm long; phyllaries ± 5, 2–6 mm long, tomentose beneath, glabrous above, in male capitula connate in lower 1/2–1/4, in female capitula free.
Florets
Male florets 12–66; corolla white, tube infundibuliform, 1.8–3.5 mm long with long white hairs, lobes ovate, 0.5–1.3 mm long, styles white, the upper part long-exserted; female florets 1–6; corolla almost glabrous to densely hairy, 4–5-lobed, 0.8–1.2 mm long, lobes ovate, 0.5–0.8 mm long.
Fruits
Achenes obovoid in outline, narrowed towards the base and apex, brown, 1.6–4 mm long, 3-ribbed on one face, 1-ribbed on the other, densely covered in long white cotton-woolly hairs and crowned with persistent corolla.
Figures
Fig. 2.
[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
An aromatic shrub from Africa and Saudi Arabia, camphor bush is used in traditional medicine and also valued for its wood.

This aromatic shrub regenerates vigorously after cutting or burning and can become a weed where farmers have cut down the original vegetation to make pastureland. It can grow in large stands and is so well-known and common in Kenya that it has given its local Maasai name (leleshwa) to a luxury camp in the Masai Mara, a winery in the Rift Valley and even the Nairobi suburb Kileleshwa! Cattle and antelope browse the leaves, but this gives a strange taste to their milk.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

A widespread species, occurring from Saudi Arabia all along the eastern flank of Africa down to South Africa (with a big gap in central Tanzania and northern Zambia). Over most of its range, it is found at 700 - 2,700 m above sea level, but in the far south it can be found as low as 30 m above sea level.

Camphor bush occurs in dry forest in the northern portion of its distribution, but elsewhere it grows in bushland and bushy grassland. It can be locally dominant.

Description

Overview:An evergreen shrub, occasionally growing into a small tree, up to 9 m tall. The rough, fissured bark flakes off in long strips smelling strongly of camphor. Trees are either male or female.

Leaves: Aromatic, usually about 12 × 2 cm, smooth and green above, felted with dense grey or white hairs below.

Flowers: Small and white, in many small flower heads (capitulae) forming leafy sprays that are either male (up to 15 cm long) or female (up to 35 cm long).

Fruits: Minute (about 4.0 × 1.5 mm), with dense, cottony hairs up to 3 mm long, and crowned by the dried flower.

Uses

Camphor bush is used in traditional medicine for treating various chest ailments, fevers, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, toothache and chilblains and for unblocking sinuses.

The wood is close-grained, hard and heavy and is used in hut construction, bushmen’s bows and arrow-shafts, and punt poles (used on the Pongola pans in South Africa). It is popular for spear-shafts and walking sticks, and fence posts made from this wood are said to last for thirty years.

In South Africa it has been used for musical instruments, cabinet-work and boat-building. It is popular as firewood, as it will burn while still green.

In the past, camphor bush leaves were chewed with the aim of producing a slight narcotic effect. Leaves are good for cattle to browse, and bees produce a nice honey from camphor bush flowers.

Kew’s research into insect-repellent properties

Traditionally, camphor bush has been used as an insect repellent, its leaves being used as bedding, deposited in granaries or rubbed on the hair to keep away lice. Laboratory tests carried out at Kew have shown that the plant contains substances that adversely affect insects. This research also found that camphor bush contains substances that are toxic to living cells.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

A collection of camphor bush seeds is held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

This species at Kew

Pressed and dried specimens of Tarchonanthus camphoratus are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. Thedetails of some of these specimens, including some images, can be seen online in Kew’sHerbarium Catalogue.

View details and images of specimens

Specimens of camphor bush leaves, wood and bark are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Distribution
Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia
Ecology
Dry forest, bushland and grassland.
Conservation
Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria. Widespread and common.
Hazards

None, though in South Africa splinters of the wood are reputed to be poisonous and cause wounds that are slow to heal.

[UPPd]
Wood
Furnishings - The wood is aromatic, greyish-brown, heavy, hard and durable, and has been used for small ornaments. Stems - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Digestive System Disorders
Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa Leaves and twigs are used to treat toothache. Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Respiratory System Disorders
Leaves and twigs are used to treat asthma Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Inflammation
Leaves and twigs are used to treat bronchitis. Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Muscular-Skeletal System Disorders
Leaves and twigs are used to treat rheumatism. Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Ill-Defined Symptoms
Leaves and twigs used to treat headaches. Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Sedatives
Smoking dried leaves in a pipe is dedative Leaves - A Preliminary Inventory of Plants for psychoactive purposes in Southern African healing traditions Dry leaves smoked as a sedative. Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Fuelwood
Stems - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
Herbage
Unspecified Animal - Leaves are browsed by game and livestock. Leaves - Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
[KSP]
Use
Traditional medicine, fuel, traditional construction, ornamental.

Images

Common Names

English
Camphor bush

Tarchonanthus camphoratus L. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Sp. Pl. 2: 842. 1753 [1 May 1753]

Literature

  • [1] Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. J. (2012). Conservation Checklist of the Trees of Uganda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

  • [2] Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
  • [3] Curtis, B. & Mannheimer, C. (2005). Tree Atlas of Namibia. National Botanical Research Institute, Windhoek.
  • [4] Coates Palgrave, K. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
  • [5] A Preliminary Inventory of Plants for psychoactive purposes in Southern African healing traditions
  • [6] Beentje, H. J. (1999). The genus Tarchonanthus (Compositae – Mutisieae). Kew Bulletin 54: 81‒95.
  • [7] Beentje, Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas p. 564, fig. (1994).
  • [8] Beentje, H. J. (1994). Kenya Trees, Shrubs & Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
  • [9] G.V. Pope in Flora Zambesiaca 6: 9 (1992).
  • [10] Ivens, E. Afr. Weeds ed. 2: 71, fig. 36 (1989).
  • [11] Blundell, Wild Flow. E. Afr.: 178, pl. 95 (1987).
  • [12] Paiva in Bol. Soc. Brot., sér. 2A, 46: 360 (1972).
  • [13] Dale & Greenway, Kenya Trees and Shrubs p. 160, photo 31 (1961).
  • [14] J.P.M. Brenan, Check-lists of the Forest Trees and Shrubs of the British Empire no. 5, part II, Tanganyika Territory p. 160 (1949).
  • [15] O. Hoffm. in A. Engler & K. Prantl, Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien 43 (IV, 5): 174, fig. 90 (1890).
  • [16] Oliv. & Hiern in Flora of Tropical Africa 3: 321 (1877).
  • [17] L., Sp. Pl.: 842 (1753).

Sources

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
[A] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca
[B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
[C] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
[D]
[E] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Project MGU - Useful Plants Project (UPP) database
[F]