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Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel) | NPIN
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Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Prunus caroliniana

Prunus caroliniana Aiton

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

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Synonym(s): Laurocerasus caroliniana

USDA Symbol: prca

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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.

 

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

Distribution

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.

Benefit

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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Prunus species may be rooted from dormant hardwood, softwood, semi-hardwood, or root cuttings. Semi-hardwood and softwood cuttings taken in summer root easiest. Germination of most seeds requires cold stratification.
Seed Collection: Collect fruit when it is filled out, firm, and its ripe color. Clean seeds from pulp and briefly air dry. (Seeds to be sown immediately in fall do not need drying.) Storage viability is maintained at 31-41 degrees.
Seed Treatment: For spring sowing, stratify seeds in moist sand for 30-60 days in a greenhouse, then cold stratify (36-41 degrees) for 60-90 days. Plant well before high temperatures.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Cherry laurels do not like being severely pruned and will resist being trained into an angled hedge.

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From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Hill Country Natives - Leander, TX

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX

Bibliography

Bibref 481 - How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Revised and Updated Edition (2001) Nokes, J.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Recommended Species Lists

Find native plant species by state. Each list contains commercially available species suitable for gardens and planned landscapes. Once you have selected a collection, you can browse the collection or search within it using the combination search.

View Recommended Species page

Additional resources

USDA: Find Prunus caroliniana in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Prunus caroliniana in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Prunus caroliniana

Metadata

Record Modified: 2010-01-17
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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