Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Laurels Lost for a Tree from China; Looking Back with Di Millar

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Laurels Lost for a Tree from China; Looking Back with Di Millar

Article excerpt

A NATIVE tree of China, the camphor laurel (Cinnamomum

camphora), is a large evergreen tree that grows 20-30 metres tall. Its leaves have a glossy, waxy appearance and when crushed give off a camphor smell.

The tree's new foliage is bright green and the small white masses of flowers produce clusters of small, round black berries. For centuries the tree has been a source of the white crystalline camphor that has been used in food, as a medicine and as an insect repellent.

Historical records indicate that the camphor laurel was introduced into Australia in the 1820s as an ornamental tree in gardens and public parks. By the 1840s the camphor laurel and other exotic plants, fruit trees and shrubs such as camellia, rhododendron, gardenia, protea, fuchsia, oleander, custard apple and black guava were advertised afor gentlemen wishing to beautify their gardena.

Australia's hot, dry climate made shade trees a desirable attraction in public places and gardening notes and columns in newspapers of the day advocated the use of camphor laurel as an ornamental shade tree. In 1867 improvements in Sydney's Domain included the planting of camphor laurel designed to form future grand avenues. Brisbane's Bowen Park and Wickham Terrace Reserve also benefited from the planting of attractive shade trees such as camphor laurel.

In 1878 two rows of the trees leading to Grafton General Hospital, camphor laurel and blue gum, were planted and the following year Lismore Council was asked to plant avenues of shade trees including camphor laurel along the town's thoroughfares to help alleviate the discomfort felt by residents walking along them in hot weather. Women and children were said to slowly grill in their small homes during the summer months because of the lack of outdoor shade. Tree planting around homes was also advocated. …

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