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Umbellularia californica

Common Name:
California bay laurel
Plant Type:
Evergreen tree
Lauraceae (The Laurel Family)
Geographic Origin:
California Native?:
Plant Size:
30-80 feet high
Landscape/Garden Uses:
Flowering Season:
Flower Color:
Pale yellow
Sun or light shade
Most soils
Suggested Irrigation:
Occasional to little watering
Estimated Hardiness:
Hardy to 10 degrees F. or less
This is an amazingly variable and adaptable California native. In the dry chaparral and on bare coastal slopes, it is a dense, oval shrub. Growing along creeks or in moist forests, it is encountered as a large tree with widely spreading canopy. Wherever it is seen, however, it has a lush covering of narrow, pointed, shiny leaves which are pungently aromatic when bruised (taking too deep a whiff brings instant fire to the sinuses). They had a brief commercial reign as a substitute for Grecian bay (Laurus nobilis) in cooking, until toxic compounds were identified in them. Large green or purple tinged berries decorate mature plants in the fall, but unfortunately create enough litter when they fall to preclude its use as a street tree. Sun or light shade, reasonably well drained soil, moderate to little watering. Hardy to 0-10 deg.F.