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laurocerasus officinalis - L.

Common Name Cherry Laurel, English Laurel
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 6-8
Known Hazards All parts of the plant contain 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 Woods in Britain[17].
Range E. Europe to W. Asia. More or less naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
laurocerasus officinalis Cherry Laurel, English Laurel

laurocerasus officinalis Cherry Laurel, English Laurel


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded, Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
laurocerasus officinalis is an evergreen Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in leaf all year, in flower from April to June, and the seeds ripen in September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Laurocerasus officinalis. Padus laurocerasus.


Edible Uses

Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet and reasonably pleasant when fully ripe[65, 74, K]. The cultivar 'Camelliifolia' bears huge quantities of fruit[K]. This is the size of a large cherry and, when fully ripe, has a reasonable flavour raw with a jelly-like texture and a slight astringency[K]. Some sources suggest the fruit is poisonous, this probably refers to the unripe fruit[7]. We have eaten this fruit in quite large quantities without the slightest ill effects (this also includes a 2 year old child) and so any toxicity is of a very low order[K]. However, any fruit that is bitter should not be eaten in quantity because the bitterness is caused by the presence of the toxic compounds - see the notes above on toxicity. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. Water distilled from the leaves is used as an almond flavouring[2, 46, 61, 183]. It should only be uses in small quantities, it is poisonous in large amounts[183]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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The fresh leaves are antispasmodic, narcotic and sedative[4, 7]. They are of value in the treatment of coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia and indigestion[4, 238]. Externally, a cold infusion of the leaves is used as a wash for eye infections[238]. There are different opinions as to the best time to harvest the leaves, but they should only be used fresh because the active principles are destroyed if the leaves are dried[4]. 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].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Very tolerant of trimming, this plant makes an excellent hedge especially in shady areas[11, 29, 200]. Some forms of this plant, notably 'Cherry Brandy', 'Otto Luyken', 'Zabelina' and 'Schipkaensis' are low-growing and make very good ground cover plants for sun or shade[182, 197]. Water distilled from the leaves is used in perfumery[4]. The bruised leaves, when rubbed within any container, will remove strong odours such as garlic or cloves so long as any grease has first been fully cleaned off[4]. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. Wood - pinkish grey. Used in turnery and lathe work[74].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Screen, Specimen. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but it is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present, growing badly on shallow chalk[98, 200]. Extremely tolerant of shade, it succeeds in the dense shade of trees with almost no direct light and in their drip line[197, 200], though it fruits better in a more sunny position[200]. A very ornamental plant, there are many named varieties[200]. The cultivar 'Otto Luyken' is a low growing narrow-leafed form that flowers in spring and autumn. The tiny flowers are powerfully fragrant[245] but have a rather offensive odour[182]. This is a matter of opinion, some people find the smell sweet and delightful[K]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants[11], it should be introduced with care since it often self-sows in woodlands and can prevent the successful regeneration of native trees by shading out the seedlings[208]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. The flowers attract butterflies and moths[30]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]. Subject to bacterial canker which can kill large branches[124]. Trim (preferably with secateurs) in spring or late summer[200]. Old plants can be cut back hard into the old wood in spring and will soon recover[200]. Special Features:Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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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

Islay, Chimaja,

Found In

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

Australia, North America, Tasmania, 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 :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Prunus laurocerasusCherry Laurel, English LaurelShrub6.0 6-8 MLMHFSNM435

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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