Branching Out: Keeping A Healthy Environment Through Tree Care

Don't Rest On Your Laurels: Why And How You Should Remove Camphor Laurels From Your Land

Cinnamomum camphora, commonly known as the camphor lauren, is a tall, stately and beautiful tree with green, glossy foliage and eye-catching pale bark. It has a long history of use around the world, both for its obvious ornamental properties and for the substance known as camphor that it creates, a chemical used in everything from explosives to Hindu religious ceremonies.

Unfortunately, camphor laurel is also a dangerous invasive species, and has been classed as a noxious weed by the Australian government, to be uprooted and destroyed wherever possible. There are a number of reasons that this seemingly harmless tree poses a threat, both to you and to Australia's delicate native ecosystem:

  • Aggressive growth - The camphor laurel is a remarkably adaptable tree, able to grow in many soil types and under large amounts of shade. Combine this with its rapid seeding cycle, and entire stands of camphor laurels can appear within a relatively short period of time.
  • Toxicity - Camphor has a number of medicinal uses, but like many medicines it can be highly dangerous if taken in excessive quantities. If children or animals ingest camphor laurel leaves they can suffer from nasty gastrointestinal troubles, and even minor skin contact can cause irritation in sensitive people. The toxic nature of camphor also works against other plants -- camphor from laurel roots and fallen leaves can effectively poison nearby soil, ensuring that only other camphor laurels can grow in it.
  • Food source replacement - The fruits of the camphor tree are attractive to birds and other animals, and can often form a large part of their diet, reducing the chances of other trees having their seeds properly distributed. This also ensures that camphor laurels can breed rapidly and over a surprisingly large area.
  • Root damage - Part of the reason the camphor laurel takes so readily to Australian soil is its extensive root system, which can burrow deep underground to find water. However, these roots also spread outwards, and are strong enough to push through almost anything in their way, causing structural damage to nearby building foundations, basements and subterranean pipes.

How can camphor laurel trees be removed?

You might be tempted to simply chop down a camphor laurel growing on your land -- don't. If the main trunk of a camphor laurel is cut down, suckers can grow rapidly from almost any part of the root system, often in great numbers, leaving you with even more trees to uproot or cut down. Instead, choose one of the following options for effective camphor laurel removal:

  • Herbicides - Camphor laurels are hardy trees, and it takes a potent poison to bring them down. Triclopyr and glyphosate are effective against camphor laurels, but be aware that they are highly toxic materials, dangerous to both yourself and the surrounding flora and fauna. In addition, any inadvertent poisoning of groundwater or nearby water sources will not be looked on kindly by the law courts. Unless you have experience in administering herbicides, it's usually best to allow a professional arborist to administer it, generally to the exposed stump of a recently felled tree.
  • Hand pulling - If you have identified a stand of young camphor laurels and want to get rid of them before they grow into a problem, pulling them out by hand is a safe and effective course of action, as long as it is done thoroughly. Even small pieces of root left behind can form the base of a new tree.
  • Bulldozing - An option reserved for landowners tackling large stands of laurels, bulldozing is often preceded by widespread herbicide dispersal, to weaken the trees and make them easier to uproot. Again, it is important that trees are removed entirely, with no roots remaining in the soil.