Laurels

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.

Cherry Laurel

Cherry Laurel tree

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.

Cherry Laurel leaf

The evergreen leaves are large and glossy. They are not toothed.

Cherry Laurel flower spike

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’.

Cherry Laurel fruit

The cherries are ‘bitter’. The fruit is technically a drupe, like the Wild Cherry. Photo taken in September.

Portugal Laurel

Portugal Laurel tree

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.

Portugal Laurel leaf

The evergreen leaves are glossy, toothed and pointed, unlike the Cherry Laurel

Portugal Laurel flower tail

The flowers hang down in a long ‘tail’  in early June. The ‘tail’ is much longer than the ‘spike’ of the Cherry Laurel.

Portugal Laurel fruit

Fruit in October. The fruit is technically a drupe like the Wild Cherry