Cinnamomum oliveri

Camphorwood, Oliver's Sassafras, Black Sassafras and Cinnamon Wood

Family: Lauraceae

A rainforest tree growing to 30 m tall at the eastern coastal parts of Australia.

It grows from the Illawarra district in New South Wales, northwards in disjunct patches close to the coast, into Queensland, as far as the Cape York Peninsula at the northern tip of Australia.

It is common in warm temperate rainforest areas on sedimentary soils in cool mountain situations. But also seen in subtropical rainforest.

The freshly broken twigs emit an odour like that of sarsaparilla

Cinnamomum spp. can have simple and opposite oir alternate leaves. In this species, leaves are opposite, entire wavy margins, smooth, lanceolate, pointed, gradually tapering to the base, to 15 cm long and to 4 cm wide; shiny green above, bluish grey below.

Cinnamomum can produce flowers that are unusually 3-merous with 6 (or sometimes 4) perianth parts in 2 whorls or sometimes 9 perianth parts in 3 whorls. In this species, flowers appear from October to November; cream in colour and fragrant, in panicles at the ends of branchlets or in the forks of leaves near the ends of the branchlets; to 15 cm long and 7 cm wide, with each flower about 6 mm across.

The fruit is a drupe (a peach, plum, olive-type fruit), blue-black or black in colour, oval shaped and shiny and aromatic. Fruit ripens from February to April.

In the garden

A tree that is cultivated and is a great addition to rainforest and shady gardens. Some nurseries do sell it.

It can grow to a tall tree in its natural habitat but would likely grow to 15 m in a garden. So would need some space. Early pruning may create a denser shrub and control the size. Has attractive red new leaves.

It may also serve as a street tree or lawn planting (as many rainforest plants do).

The fragrant timber is used for indoor work, lining and cabinet work.

The bark of contains tannin, also many essential oils.

Fruiting occurs roughly every seven years, and is prolific

Fruit is eaten by rainforest birds including the white-headed pigeon, pied currawong and green catbird.

Food plant for the larval stages of the Blue Triangle Butterfly. Common & Waterhouse (1981).


Like many rainforest plants the most successful method of propagation is to remove the fleshy seed coating to assist seed germination. The seed has short longevity due to deterioration on drying.

Other information

Likely grows in habitats where fire is not a regular occurrence. Fire is likely detrimental to this species.

Cinnamomum is a genus of about 250 species, distributed through Asia, Malesia, Australia and The Pacific Islands. Australia has 6 species ( 5 endemic and 1 naturalised). 3 species are currently recognised in NSW.

Cinnamomum – from Ancient Greek word (κιννάμωμον) and via Latin – referring to cinnamon the spice. Culinary cinnamon comes from the bark of Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamomum cassia.

oliveri – named after Daniel Oliver (1830 – 1916) a British botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and University College London. Daniel Oliver was responsible for continuing to edit Sir W. J. Hooker’s Icones Plantarum after his retirement.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Cinnamomum oliveri profile page

Useful Tropical Plants – Cinnamomum oliveri profile page              http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Cinnamomum+oliveri

Wikipedia – Cinnamomum oliveri profile page                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamomum_oliveri

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.