Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Prunus caroliniana

Cherry laurel, Carolina cherry laurel, Laurel cherry, Carolina laurel cherry

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy
With a natural range extending from southern North Carolina west to east Texas, Carolina laurel cherry is a dense shrub or small tree, 15-36 ft. tall, with a pyramidal to oval outline. Leaves are firm, smooth, evergreen, narrowly elliptic, tapered to a pointed tip and equally tapered to the base. Margins are smooth on reproductive trees, with narrow, pointed teeth on saplings and root sprouts. Upper surface is dark green and shiny, the lower surface lighter and duller. The leaves have a taste suggestive of almond flavoring and are poisonous when eaten. Flowers are white to cream, about 3/16 inch wide, in showy elongate clusters among the leaves, opening from February to April. Fruit is fleshy, but with a thin pulp, black, 1/2 inch long by 3/8 inch wide, egg shaped with a small tip, and persistent through winter.

A handsome, evergreen, ornamental and large hedge plant in southeastern North America, often escaping from cultivation. The greatest use of Cherry laurel is for providing a nearly carefree, dark green visual screen. Birds consume the dry fruit.

Image Gallery:

18 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Raceme
Size Notes: Can reach 36 ft but more often 15-20 ft.
Leaf: deep green
Flower: Flowers in 2 inch spikes
Fruit: Black, Blue 1-1.3 cm
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , LA , MS , NC , SC , TX
Native Distribution: Coastal Plain of s.e. NC to FL Panhandle, w. to e. TX; naturalized elsewhere
Native Habitat: Low woods; maritime forests; fields; thickets

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, deep, loamy, well-drained soils. Clay Loam, Medium Loam, Sandy Loam, Sandy
Conditions Comments: Likes the moist, well-drained soils of its natural range. Prolonged saturation can cause root rot, particularly in clay soils. Shallow, nutrient-poor, rocky soils can cause chlorosis and heat stress.


Use Ornamental: A showy, attractive, fast growing, evergreen screening tree or hedge, popular in residential landscaping in the mid-20th century.
Use Wildlife: Berries attract birds. Flowers attract bees and other insects.
Warning: The seeds, twigs, and leaves of all Prunus species contain hydrocyanic acid and should never be eaten. Leaves of Prunus caroliniana are particularly high in this toxin. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High

Last Update: 2016-01-21