Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Atherosperma moschatum Labill.

Frost hardy, conical, evergreen tree with lance-shaped, nutmeg-scented leaves and solitary, saucer-shaped, fragrant, creamy white flowers, produced from the upper leaf axils in early spring.  To 6m.  [RHSE, Hilliers’, FNSW, Beadle].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘Sassafras.  The fragrant bark of this tree has been used as tea in Tasmania.  A decoction or infusion of the green or dried bark was made, and according to Mr. Gunn, it has a pleasant taste when taken with plenty of milk.  Its effect is, however, slightly aperient.  It is also used in the form of a beer.  [p.9].

The bark contains an agreeable bitter, of much repute as a tonic amongst sawyers.  It is called Native Sassafras from the odour of its bark, due to an essential oil closely resembling true sassafras in odour.  Bosisto likens the smell of the inner bark to new ale, and says that a decoction from this part of the tree is a good substitute for yeast in raising bread.  It is diaphoretic and diuretic in asthma and other pulmonary affections, but it is known more especially for its sedative action on the heart, and it has been successfully used in some forms of heart disease.  It is prepared of the strength of 4 ounces of the bark to 20 ounces of rectified spirit, and is given in doses of 30 to 60 drops, usually on a lump of sugar.  The volatile oil of the bark alone is said to have a lowering action on the heart.  [p.156].

The wood is very suitable for sash and door work.  It is useful to the cabinet-maker also, for it has a dark duramen, and frequently exhibits a pleasant figure; it has also the quality of taking a beautiful polish.  It is said to be peculiarly suitable for the sounding boards of musical instruments.  It is close-grained, very tough, easily worked, and much esteemed for shoemakers’ lasts, and also for carpenters’ bench screws.  Height, up to 100 or 150ft. in Tasmania.  New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.’  [Maiden – The Useful Native Plants of Australia p.9, p.156, p.380/1889]

Introduced to Britain in 1824.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Only listed in the 1857 catalogue [T.73/1857].  Probably obtained locally by Macarthur.  It occurs in temperate rainforest from Barrington Tops south [FNSW].


Published Feb 26, 2009 - 03:37 PM | Last updated Jul 27, 2010 - 05:24 PM

Family Monimiaceae
Region of origin

South eastern Australia

Common Name

Black Sassafras, Southern Sassafras

Name in the Camden Park Record

Atherosperma moschata

Confidence level high