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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    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Laurus nobilis Bay Tree, Sweet bay, Grecian Laurel, True Laurel,

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


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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.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 8. It is in leaf all year, in flower from April to May. The species is 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 is 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: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly 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.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge; East Wall. By. South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
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].

References   More on Edible Uses

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].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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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].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Hedge  Hedge  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

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. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is branching: a heart root, dividing from the crown into several primary roots going down and out [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

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.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Bay laurel

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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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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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

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)

Geert Devriese   Wed Feb 22 2006

Laurusinfo All info about Laurus nobilis and cultivars

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

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.?

   Wed Jun 25 2008

i think this page is relly good. it has alot of good information in here i relly like it

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

   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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