Sunday, May 18, 2008

those elusive yet ubiquitous Laurels...

A few words on the Cinnamomum genus:

Camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) are pretty common in my area as ornamental, shade and street trees. They can remind me of Dogwoods, except that their leaves are glossier. They are not related -- Dogwoods belong to their own family (the Dogwood or Cornaceae) whereas Camphors belong to the Laurel (Lauraceae), a family known for such aromatic success stories as cinnamon and sassafras -- and avocados! What a portfolio...

Cinnamomum camphora is native to China and other parts of east Asia, and has a long history of commercial and medicinal uses. Camphor the substance, which is derived from from the tree, has been used in perfumes, soaps, insect repellents, explosives, and plastics. The bark of its Sri Lankan relative, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is the true source of the spice cinnamon. Much of what is sold commercially as cinnamon, however, is actually Cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum), another relative found in and around Myanmar (formerly Burma).


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