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Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt.
California laurel, California bay, Oregon myrtle, Pepperwood
USDA Symbol: UMCA
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
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
, OR Native Distribution:
Coast Ranges & Sierra Nevadas from CA
to s.w. OR Native Habitat:
Moist canyons, streams & pond edges
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:
National Wetland Indicator Status
|Status:|| FAC || FAC |
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
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
Record Last Modified: 2010-11-22
Research By: TWC Staff