Laurus nobilis L.

bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree, true laurel
Lauraceae
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Laurus nobilis
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Laurus nobilis: Appearance of the small tree at any time of the year; the rounded shape is due to pruning

Appearance of the small tree at any time of the year; the rounded shape is due to pruningBranch with elliptic, leathery, glossy leaves on the upper side, with entire and somewhat undulate margins; they release a very pleasant, aromatic smell when crushedDetailed view of a branch with male flowers before the anthesisBranch with 2 olive-like drupes; the one on the left, black with purplish reflections, is almost mature
Etymology

Laurus: Ancient Latin name for bay laurel

nobilis, -e: noble, notable

Description

Habit: Dioecious, evergreen aromatic shrub or small tree 5-10 m tall with smooth bark, greenish and glabrous young branchlets and a dense irregular crown.

Leaves: alternate, persistent, without stipules, 6-15 cm long x 2-5 cm wide, with short petioles, simple; blade elliptic to oblong, with entire and often somewhat wavy margins, glabrous, leathery.

Flowers: unisexual, yellowish, arranged in small axillary umbels, with 4 petaloid sepals 3-5 mm long; male flowers have 8-12 stamens with anthers dehiscing by 2 hinged valves and usually with two fleshy nectaries at the base; female flowers hypogynous, with 4 staminodes and a single-carpel gynoecium with a bilocular superior ovary and a short style.

Fruit: berry 1-1.5 cm long., globose, somewhat acuminate, black, with a single seed.

Phenology

It flowers at the end of winter or the beginning of spring. Fruits mature at the beginning of autumn.

Geographic origin

Native to the Mediterranean region; it occurs as a native or naturalized plant throughout the Iberian Peninsula.

Observations

It is often cultivated as an ornamental, particularly to make hedges, and as an aromatic plant. Its leaves are often used to marinate food and as a condiment.

Laurel wreaths symbolize victory and were used to crown Roman emperors and poets, sportsmen and victorious warriors in ancient times.

It is propagated from seeds and by separating shoots growing from the base.

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