Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Umbellularia californica (California laurel)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Umbellularia californica

Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt.

California Laurel, California Bay, Oregon Myrtle, Pepperwood

Lauraceae (Laurel Family)



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, or many more, 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.


From the Image Gallery

2 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Most often 20-45 feet tall. May be up to about 150 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Nov , Dec


Native Distribution: Coast Ranges & Sierra Nevadas from CA to s.w. OR
Native Habitat: Moist canyons, streams & pond edges

Growing Conditions

Water 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.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Bay laurel is easily started from seed sown on light-textured beds soon after harvest. It can also be propagated from cuttings.
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: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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 on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 37 - Calscape (2019) California Native Plant Society
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 36 - Jepson eFlora (2019) The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-04-10
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back