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Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt.
California laurel, California bay, Oregon myrtle, Pepperwood
USDA Symbol: UMCA
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
This is a pungently aromatic, evergreen tree; its variable form dependent on habitat. Broad-crowned if open grown or narrow in shade, it is a slow grower to 40 ft. and sometimes remains an erect shrub in dry sites. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves are dark green and leathery. The bark is greenish to reddish-brown. Yellow-green flowers, 6-10 per flowering stem, are followed by greenish, avocado-like fruits which become dark purple when ripe. Evergreen tree with short trunk, usually forked into several large, spreading branches, forming a broad, rounded, dense crown of aromatic, peppery foliage; in exposed situations a low, thicket-forming shrub.
A handsome ornamental and street tree on the West Coast, it is also known as California-bay. When crushed, the foliage, twigs, and other parts are pungently aromatic. The attractive light brown wood with darker stalkless takes a beautiful finish and is used for veneer in furniture and paneling, cabinetwork, and interior trim. Prized for novelties and woodenware, it is often marketed as Oregon-myrtle, though a member of the Laurel Family. California Laurel and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) are the northernmost New World representatives of this tropical family.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf:
Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Dec
CA , OR Native Distribution:
Coast Ranges & Sierra Nevadas from CA to s.w. OR Native Habitat:
Moist canyons, streams & pond edges USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Moist soils.
Conditions Comments: California bay laurel tolerates serpentine (high magnesium) soils. It is a very refined plant.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
Bay laurel is easily started from seed sown on light-textured beds soon after harvest. It can also be propagated from cuttings. Seed Collection:
Not Available Seed Treatment:
Removal of the leathery fruit
coat will shorten germination to about two months. A 3-4 month stratification has been suggested. Commercially Avail:
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CANative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
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Record Modified: 2010-11-22
Research By: TWC Staff