Origins & Botany

The Botany of Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

Plant classification

Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Species: laurocerasus
Varieties: Rotundifolia, Caucasica, Novita, Etna, Marbled White, Otto Luyken, Zabeliana, etc

Common names: Cherry Laurel, Common Laurel, English Laurel

Cherry Laurel is a member of the Genus, Prunus, which is a large group of plants consisting of more than 400 different species including edible cherries (e.g. Prunus 'Stella'), our native wild cherry tree (Prunus avium), peaches and nectarines (Prunus persica), almond trees (Prunus dulcis), plum and gage trees (Prunus x domestica), and apricots (Prunus armeniaca) as well as ornamental flower cherries such as The Great White Cherry (Prunus 'Tai Haku') and the double-pink ornamental cherry, Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan'. The deciduous, native hedging plants Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) are also members of the Genus.

Leaves

An evergreen shrub with large, alternate, thick, glossy, green leaves between 7 and 20cm long depending on variety. Many different varieties are available (see section on Type of Laurel Hedging.

Flowering & Berries

Cherry Laurels produce masses of small (approx 8mm) cup-shaped, fragrant, white flowers on erect, axillary and terminal racemes in April.

Fruits

The flowers are followed by berries that are red at first but turn black. The berries have a bitter almond taste and will cause stomach upset if eaten due to the presence of cyanogenic glucosides. No cases of serious harm have resulted from ingestion of Cherry Laurel berries despite it being widely planted in the UK. In general, most of the flower buds are trimmed off during regular hedge cutting. Additionally, as the berries have a bitter taste, people tend not to eat them.  Classed as Category C in the Horticultural Trade Association list of Potentially Harmful Plants with A being the most harmful and C the least harmful. Other plants in category C include Ivy, Hellebores, Lobelia and Lupins.

Propagation

Cherry Laurel is propagated commercially from cuttings usually using one of the three following methods:

1. Basal cuttings in a cold frame in September

2. Semi-hard cuttings in a low tunnel in July/August

3. Basal cuttings on a mist bench in March

Cherry Laurel can also be grown from seed.

The Origins of Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

Prunus laurocerasus is indigenous to parts of south eastern Europe and south west Asia and is found in areas bordering the Black Sea and countries such as Iran, Turkey, Albania and Bulgaria.

Prunus laurocerasus was introduced to the UK from Constantinople in 1576 by Clusius who in turn received it from David Ungnad, the Ambassador to the Emperor of Constantinople. Prunus laurocerasus is now naturalised in the UK. It has also become naturalised in north western parts of the USA and Canada such as California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

The Botany of Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica)

Plant classification

Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Species: lusitanica
Varieties: Myrtifolia, Angustifolia, Variegata, subspecies Azorica

Common names: Portugal Laurel, Portuguese Laurel

Portugal Laurel is a member of the Genus: Prunus like Cherry Laurel (see above).

Leaves

Prunus lusitanica has alternate, evergreen, glossy, dark green leaves with a dendate (finely toothed) margin. The size depends on the variety and vary from 5 to 12cm long.

The leaves are borne on reddish petioles.

Flowering & Berries

Portugal Laurel produces masses of small (approx 10mm) cup-shaped, hawthorn-scented, white flowers on long, slender racemes in early summer.

Fruits

The flowers are followed by berries that are red at first ripen to black. As with Prunus laurocerasus, the berries have a bitter almond taste and will cause stomach upset if eaten due to the presence of cyanogenic glucosides. No cases of serious harm have resulted from ingestion of Portugal Laurel berries despite it being widely planted in the UK. In general, most of the flower buds are trimmed off during regular hedge cutting. Additionally, as the berries have a bitter taste, people tend not to eat them. Classed as Category C in the Horticultural Trade Association list of Potentially Harmful Plants with A being the most harmful and C the least harmful. Other plants in category C include Ivy, Hellebores, Lobelia and Lupins.

Propagation

Portugal Laurel is propagated in the same was as Cherry Laurel - commercially from cuttings usually using one of the three following methods:

1. Basal cuttings in a cold frame in September

2. Semi-hard cuttings in a low tunnel in July/August

3. Basal cuttings on a mist bench in March

Portugal Laurel can also be grown from seed.

The Origins of Portugal Laurel

As the name suggests, Portugal Laurel is native to Portugal (Lusitanica is the Latin name for Portugal). It is also native to Spain.

Portugal Laurel was brought to the UK from Madeira in 1648 and the first specimen was probably one grown at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. This specimen was cut down in 1826 having reached 8-10 metres (25-30ft) high.

 

copyright © 2014 Laurel Hedging | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy |  web design by teapot creative