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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Genus: Cinnamomum (cinnamon, camphor genus)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > magnoliids > Order: Laurales > Family: Lauraceae

About 250 species worldwide (E and SE Asia through to Australia). Two species (cinnamon and camphor) are naturalised in southern Africa and an additional three species are cultivated.

Species naturalised in southern Africa

List from Flora of Zimbabwe.

Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor tree)

The wood used to be distilled to produce camphor, but this substance is now usually produced artificially. The Camphor tree is native to East Asia (Malaysia through to Japan). It has become naturalised in southern Africa and is a declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa for the provinces of Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Cinnamomum verum (Cinnamon bark tree, Ceylon cinnamon)

This medium-sized tree is the source of true cinnamon and is native to Sri Lanka and India. The spice is derived from the bark and has a sweet, spicy flavour. It is used in puddings, confectionery, mulled wine, sauces, red meat dishes, chicken dishes, pickles and soups. The flavour is mainly due to cinnamaldehyde, which is the main component in the essential oil derived from cinnamon. It is cultivated in southern Africa and has become naturalised in Zimbabwe.


Cultivated species in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002).

Cinnamomum aromaticum (Chinese cinnamon, cassia bark)

Not recorded in Glen (2002) but quite likely that it has been cultivated in southern Africa. The bark is used in a similar manner to true cinnamon bark from Cinnamomum verum. It has a stronger flavour than true cinnamon and is cheaper so is quite often used as a substitute for the latter.


Cinnamomum burmannii

Native to India.


Cinnamomum glanduliferum

Native to the Himalayas.


Cinnamomum japonicum

Native to Japan, Korea and Taiwan.



  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.