The Q&A Archives: bay laurel

Question: I purchased a bay tree years ago online through an herb shop. It was sold as a bay laurel nobilis. I have another bay tree that I know for sure is a bay laurel. The one I bought online smells lovely, but the leaves are serrated and not really glossy. Is this truly a bay laurel or do these leaves represent possibly another bay, such as a California bay tree?
Also, my husband and I have bought many of your shrubs over the years and always love them (mostly annabelles and nikkos!)

Thank you for your help,
Patsy Schanz

Answer: Umbellularia californica or California laurel is very aromatic, here is a photo and description to compare with. The margins are smooth. You may need to cut and paste the complete url into your browser to make it work correctly.

Here is a photo of Bayberry or Myrica pennsylvanica, slightly serrated -- but it is the berries that are really fragrant and smell like bayberry candles. In Mrs. Grieves' Modern Herbal, an older but usefulo reference, there is noted that the foliage is very fragrant when crushed. I wonder if this is what you may actually have.

There is Indonesian bay leaf, Eugenia polyantha or sometimes apparently listed as Syzygium polyanthum. I am not sure what this one smells like.

There is also Indian bay leaf, Cinnamomum tamala.

Here is a Lauris nobilis in bloom. The distinguishing feature between this and the California laurel may be the blooms, they are very different.

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