There are two Laurels commonly found in woodlands and hedges as shrubs or small trees – the Cherry Laurel and the Portugal Laurel. Both are also used as ornamental plants in gardens and parks. They are both members of the prunus genus which has over 400 species of trees and shrubs and includes the Wild Cherry, Flowering Cherries, Plum, Apricot, Peach, Almond, Blackthorn and Bird Cherry. The Laurels can be identified by differences in their leaves, flower clusters and fruit.
The Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus is native to South East Europe and Turkey and was introduced to Britain in 1576. It is an evergreen member of the Cherry genus but the leaves look like those of the Bay Laurel, hence the name Cherry Laurel.
Fully open flowers at the end of April in the form of an upright raceme or spike. The flowers of the Portugal Laurel hang down in a raceme, sometimes called a ‘tail’.
The Portugal Laurel Prunus lusitanica, native to Spain and Portugal, was introduced to Britain in 1648. It can now be found growing wild in woods as a shrub or small tree. It is hardier than the Cherry Laurel.
The flowers hang down in a long ‘tail’ in early June. The ‘tail’ is much longer than the ‘spike’ of the Cherry Laurel.