Single walled nanotubes have been synthesized by chemical vapor deposition from camphor, camphor analogs (camphorquinone, norcamphor, norbornane, camphene, fenchone), and various other precursors (menthone, 2-decanone, benzene, methane), The high temperature conditions (865 degrees C) and Fe/Mo alumina catalyst used in the syntheses are archetypal conditions for the production of single walled carbon nanotubes. It has been shown that the mechanism of tube growth is unlikely to depend upon the production of reactive five- and six-member rings, as has been previously suggested. The results suggest that the presence of oxygen in the precursor does not significantly improve the quality of tubes by etching amorphous carbon: it is suggested that the control of the flux of the precursor to the catalyst is more important in the production of high quality tubes. There is, however, evidence for different distributions of tube diameter being produced from different precursors. (C) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.