Historical mistake

Two serious horticultural mistakes were made in the early colony of New South Wales, both of which were due to the NSW Government requesting Camphor laurels to be allowed into the then (1830-1880) swelling colony.

(I) WRONG TREE! Incorrectly Labelled Species

The first Camphor laurels to arrive in Sydney, sent by Kew Botanic Gardens in London (1828), were as 'cuttings', along with horticulturally-useful species to help horticulturalists (in Sydney), then clamouring for new fruit, grain and vegetable cultivars to grow. Due either to a storm en route, or the months of saltwater air, or a broken bottle, our 1828 Camphor laurel was not properly labelled. Instead, the label stated 'Bay Tree - Laurus nobilis'. The real Bay tree cuttings presumably died or were lost, and the Camphor laurel cuttings placed into the Bay tree bottle.

NSW Botanic Gardens Sydney record books clearly show that from 1828 to 1846 Camphor laurels were distributed to other parts of NSW (and to horticulturalists) with the incorrect name. Young colonists were led to believe that they were growing the Bay tree, probably believing that a great spice industry was going to be started from Sydney, NSW.

(2) CHASING HOLLYWOOD! Sir Henry Parkes' Decision

In the late 1870s, certainly by 1880, Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of NSW, wanted to see a new oil industry created, to help NSW become rich like Formosa (Taiwan), which ship captains reported was already very rich from exporting camphor and safrole in large volumes to Europe and America by that time. The use of camphor as a 'base chemical' for making celluloid to create movies (as in Hollywood) was already fore shadowed.

Parkes therefore sent a NSW boat to collect a Japanese subspecies of Camphor laurel from near Hiroshima. Growing trees (not cuttings) were imported through Sydney protected in glass cabinets (!!!) before transhipment to Burringbar, via Murwillumbah, for growing on, and eventual hybridisation by one of Parkes' agricultural friends, a retired MP of the NSW Government.

(3) NSW Government's Icon - Problem Tree Species;

As a result of the NSW Government's determination to import' (from Hiroshima,Japan 1881) a second lot of live Camphor' trees, their transhipment to Burringbar via Murwillumbah in the same year, and their consequent cross-breeding with the original imported 'Chinese form' of the species from Taiwan(Formosa), it is clear that hybrid-Types of the tree rapidly started to become commonplace across the entire range of the NSW Northern Rivers, with the thickest infestations of the species being closest-to-Burringbar - where on some hillslopes one cannot even walk-through the Camphor' forest/s that now totally-smother the old dairyfarming slopes (on red soils). The invasive species spread out from Burringbar in a huge semi-circle that is now approximately 120 kms radius, south towards Grafton, north towards Southport in southeast Queensland, and westward-spreading as far as Bonalbo and many other localities in Tenterfield Shire - where certain longstanding landholders corroborate that the peak of Camphor spread coincided with native bird deaths,disorientation and toxification (since March 1955), due to native NSW pigeons starting to consume the berries and , vomit them out or die with bellies full'of'em, so providing the newly germinating trees with a fertiliser-boost (after the birds died).

Throughout the above period of time, up to 1970, a range of NSW Government Departments (Education, Forestry nurseries and the Botanic Gardesn in Sydney) continued to spread the trees, and their hybrid genetic types resulting from the 'Burringbar' crosses after 1881.