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Prunus lusitanica - L.

Common Name Portugal Laurel
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Forests in the mountains of the Iberian peninsula.
Range W. Europe - S.W. France, Spain and Portugal. Occasionally naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Prunus lusitanica Portugal Laurel


Prunus lusitanica Portugal Laurel

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Prunus lusitanica is an evergreen Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in leaf all year, in flower in June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms

Laurocerasus lusitanica. Padus lusitanica.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit;  Seed.
Edible Uses:

The fruit is probably edible when fully ripe but should not be eaten if it is bitter because this bitterness is caused by the presence of toxic compounds, see the notes above on toxicity[K]. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.

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.



Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238].

Other Uses

Dye;  Hedge;  Hedge.

A very good plant for a low windbreak[184]. It is also used as a medium to tall hedge and for topiary[29, 182, 200]. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168].

Cultivation details

Succeeds on all soil types[28], though it prefers a well-drained moisture-retentive loamy soil[11, 200]. Prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much lime is present[1]. Thrives on chalk according to other reports[98, 182, 200]. Succeeds in sun or partial shade though it fruits better in a sunny position[11, 200]. Hardy to about -20°c[184]. A very ornamental plant[1], there are some named varieties selected for their ornamental value[182]. Grows well in a woodland[28]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. Plants are susceptible to silver leaf disease[11]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. The flowers are pleasantly scented[182]. Any trimming is best done with secateurs in August[182]. Plants are very tolerant of pruning.

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Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[11, 200]. Cuttings of mature wood, October in a sheltered north facing border outdoors[113]. Layering in spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Australia, Britain, Central America, Europe, France, Jamaica, Mediterranean, North America, Portugal, Spain, USA,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

1150200

Links / References

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Readers comment

edward   Sat Jan 16 2010

I would like to clear up a couple of ambiguities in the above description: Portugal Laurel does very well on chalk and we have noticed no chlorotic side effects. The berries are toxic and while it may be true that they have some stimulating effect, it is not possible to judge how much of the toxic elements are in the fruit. Stick to drinking coffee and leave these berries for the birds!

Ashridge Trees - Portugal Laurel More info on this plant.

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Subject : Prunus lusitanica  
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