The Q&A Archives: Red Bay Tree

Question: Bay Laurel trees tend to freeze and die quickly -- at least here in North Florida. I enjoy cooking with bay though and would really like to grow it. I understand that the red bay tree grows well here -- and that you can cook with it to impart a bay type flavor to cooking. Can you tell me where I can find a red bay and how to recognize one?

Answer: Red bay (Persea borbonia) is a southeastern native used by early pioneers as a seasoning. Its leaves are about 2" wide and 5" long, are thick, dark-green lustrous on top and have a silvery sheen to the undersides. They are often somewhat deformed on one margin due to the effects of a gall type insect.

It is very difficult to find in the mail order trade. I would check with a local nursery specializing in native plants, or contact your local county Extension office for possible local sources.

Have you considered growing a bay laurel tree in a large tub, and moving it indoors for the winter months?

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