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Tarchonanthus camphoratus (camphor bush)

An aromatic shrub from Africa and Saudi Arabia, camphor bush is used in traditional medicine and also valued for its wood.
Photo of Tarchonanthus camphoratus (camphor bush) fruits

The camphor bush's scented (winter) fruit, Jan Celliers Park, Pretoria (Photo: JMK, licensed under CC by 3.0)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Tarchonanthus camphoratus L.

Common name: 

camphor bush (English); leleshwa (Swahili, Maasai)

Conservation status: 

Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria. Widespread and common.


Dry forest, bushland and grassland.

Key Uses: 

Traditional medicine, fuel, traditional construction, ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None, though in South Africa splinters of the wood are reputed to be poisonous and cause wounds that are slow to heal.


Genus: Tarchonanthus

About this species

This aromatic shrub regenerates vigorously after cutting or burning and can become a weed where farmers have cut down the original vegetation to make pastureland. It can grow in large stands and is so well-known and common in Kenya that it has given its local Maasai name (leleshwa) to a luxury camp in the Masai Mara, a winery in the Rift Valley and even the Nairobi suburb Kileleshwa! Cattle and antelope browse the leaves, but this gives a strange taste to their milk.


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