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Laurus nobilis - L.                
Common Name Bay Tree, Sweet bay, Grecian Laurel, True Laurel,
Family Lauraceae
USDA hardiness 8-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Damp rocks and ravines, thickets and old walls[89].
Range S. Europe.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Pyramidal, Rounded.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of cone
Laurus nobilis is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Apr to May. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Laurus nobilis Bay Tree, Sweet bay, Grecian Laurel, True Laurel,

Laurus nobilis Bay Tree, Sweet bay, Grecian Laurel, True Laurel,
Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge; East Wall. By. South Wall. By. West Wall. By.
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

Leaves - fresh or dried[21]. A spicy, aromatic flavouring, bay leaves are commonly used as a flavouring for soups, stews etc[7, 11, 15, 34, 183] and form an essential ingredient of the herb mix 'Bouquet Garni'[201, 238]. The leaves can be used fresh or are harvested in the summer and dried. The flavour of freshly dried, crushed or shredded leaves is stronger than fresh leaves, but the leaves should not be stored for longer than a year since they will then lose their flavour[238]. The dried fruit is used as a flavouring[142, 177, 183]. The dried leaves are brewed into a herbal tea[183]. An essential oil obtained from the leaves is used as a food flavouring[183]. Yields can vary from 1 - 3% oil[7].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Abortifacient;  Antirheumatic;  Antiseptic;  Appetizer;  Aromatic;  Astringent;  Cancer;  Carminative;  Diaphoretic;  Digestive;  Diuretic;  
Emetic;  Emmenagogue;  Narcotic;  Parasiticide;  Stimulant;  Stomachic.

The bay tree has a long history of folk use in the treatment of many ailments, particularly as an aid to digestion and in the treatment of bronchitis and influenza[244]. It has also been used to treat various types of cancer[218]. The fruits and leaves are not usually administered internally, other than as a stimulant in veterinary practice, but were formerly employed in the treatment of hysteria, amenorrhoea, flatulent colic etc[4]. Another report says that the leaves are used mainly to treat upper respiratory tract disorders and to ease arthritic aches and pains[254]. It is settling to the stomach and has a tonic effect, stimulating the appetite and the secretion of digestive juices[254]. The leaves are antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic in large doses, emmenagogue, narcotic, parasiticide, stimulant and stomachic[4, 7, 21, 210, 218]. The fruit is antiseptic, aromatic, digestive, narcotic and stimulant[218]. An infusion has been used to improve the appetite and as an emmenagogue[4]. The fruit has also been used in making carminative medicines and was used in the past to promote abortion[4]. A fixed oil from the fruit is used externally to treat sprains, bruises etc, and is sometimes used as ear drops to relieve pain[4]. The essential oil from the leaves has narcotic, antibacterial and fungicidal properties[218].
Other Uses
Essential;  Hedge;  Hedge;  Parasiticide;  Repellent;  Strewing;  Wood.

An essential oil from the fruit is used in soap making[7, 46, 61]. The plant is highly resistant to pests and diseases, it is said to protect neighbouring plants from insect and health problems[14]. The leaves are highly aromatic and can be used as an insect repellent, the dried leaves protect stored grain, beans etc from weevils[14]. It is also used as a strewing herb because of its aromatic smell and antiseptic properties[244]. Very tolerant of clipping[11, 200], it can be grown as a screen or hedge in areas suited to its outdoor cultivation[182, 200]. Wood - sweetly-scented, does not wear quickly. Used for marqueterie work, walking sticks and friction sticks for making fires[4, 89].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Screen, Standard, Specimen, Street tree. Succeeds in any soil of moderate fertility[1], preferring a moisture retentive well-drained fertile soil[200]. Succeeds in dry soils. Prefers full sun but succeeds in light shade[200]. Plants are fairly wind hardy, but they do not like extreme maritime exposure[166] or cold dry winds[202]. The plant is not fully hardy in all areas of Britain and may require protection in severe winters. When dormant it is reliably hardy to about -5°c, with occasional lows to -15°c, these lower temperatures may defoliate the tree but it usually recovers in late spring to summer[200]. Laurus nobilis angustifolia (Syn 'Salicifolia') is somewhat hardier and has the same aromatic qualities[182]. The bay tree is a very ornamental plant[1] that is often cultivated for its leaves which are used as a food flavouring. Some named forms exist[202]. When bruised, the leaves release a sweet aromatic scent[245]. The tree is highly resistant to pests and diseases[14, 201] and is also notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. This species has been held in high esteem since ancient times[244]. It was dedicated to Apollo, the god of light and was also a symbol of peace and victory[244]. It was used to make wreaths for emperors, generals and poets[11, 89, 244]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Fragrant foliage, Not North American native.
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in early autumn in a greenhouse[200]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and give them some protection from the cold for at least their first winter outdoors[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Can take 6 months[1, 14]. Cuttings of mature side shoots, 10 - 12cm with a heel, November/December in a cold frame. Leave for 18 months. High percentage[78]. Layering.
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Viburnum tinusLaurustinus, Laurestinus Viburnum00
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[14]Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs.
A good herbal.
[15]Bryan. J. and Castle. C. Edible Ornamental Garden.
A small book with interesting ideas for edible plants in the ornamental garden.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[34]Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G. The Oxford Book of Food Plants.
Good drawings of some of the more common food plants from around the world. Not much information though.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[89]Polunin. O. and Huxley. A. Flowers of the Mediterranean.
A very readable pocket flora that is well illustrated. Gives some information on plant uses.
[142]Brouk. B. Plants Consumed by Man.
Readable but not very comprehensive.
[166]Taylor. J. The Milder Garden.
A good book on plants that you didn't know could be grown outdoors in Britain.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[182]Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[201]Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting.
A well produced and very readable book.
[202]Davis. B. Climbers and Wall Shrubs.
Contains information on 2,000 species and cultivars, giving details of cultivation requirements. The text is terse but informative.
[210]Westwood. C. Aromatherapy - A guide for home use.
An excellent little pocket guide. Very concise.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[244]Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs
Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants. Excellent photographs with quite good information on each plant.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
david nicholls Sun Nov 11 2007
I noticed Laurus noblis self sewing under mature pines, it seems they have more tolerence than usual for pines ability to inhibit other plants, even if mature pines are meant to be kinder than young ones. (Plants in Wellington, New Zealand)
Elizabeth H.
Geert Devriese Wed Feb 22 2006

Laurusinfo All info about Laurus nobilis and cultivars

Elizabeth H.
stepan apelian Sun Dec 23 2007
it is really peculiar not to mention the most important use of laurel oilproduced from berries and used as one of the best soap maker oil with unbelievable benefits to the skin and scalp as well as hair loss the geographical indicater is Kessab of Syria with a history of more than 400 years.Laurapel .com is the website to get some information about soap making

laurapel.com natural laurel soap /village soap makers

Elizabeth H.
austin hawkins Mon Feb 4 2008
On our bay hedge the leaves on the side exposed to the sun have all gone brown. although the hedge does not seem to have died. We need to decide if we should give it time and maybe it will recover or whether it is in fact slowly dying.?
Elizabeth H.
Wed Jun 25 2008
i think this page is relly good. it has alot of good information in here i relly like it
Elizabeth H.
edward Sat Jan 16 2010
I know it's a bit late to reply to austin hawkins' post above, but I thought I'd add this anyway: I would need to know more about the site, but it sounds like thawing damage. After a heavy frost, the leaves get strong early morning sun that quickly thaws out the leaves. This sudden temperature change is what does the damage. Does that sound like the issue?

Ashridge Trees Bay Laurel Plants

mike G.
Jun 18 2013 12:00AM
ornamental bay trees trained as "mop-head standard" are particularly at risk from low temperatures, especially if imported from a warm country ( say Italy ) to a cooler one (eg uk). This is because the bark is not hardy. Therefore even if you have a tree that has survived cold winters for years, if you prune it severely even in the spring it can die outright the following winter because the bark on the trunk has lost its insulating layer of dense foliage and no amount of 'ripening' will make up for this. If you want to cloud prune your bay you will have to wrap the stem and branches in a hessian binding like the japanese do, to get it safely thru the winter
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