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Prunus laurocerasus

Prunus laurocerasus, also known as cherry laurel, common laurel and sometimes English laurel in North America, is an evergreen species of cherry (Prunus), native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe, from Albania and Bulgaria east through Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran.[4][5]

The common names of P. laurocerasus refer to the similarity of foliage and appearance to bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, the true laurel, in the Lauraceae family), and like the bay laurel, Prunus laurocerasus was used for making laurel wreaths,[6] but the two plants are unrelated. It is not to be confused with its American relative Prunus caroliniana, which is also called cherry laurel.

Description[edit]

Prunus laurocerasus is an evergreen shrub or small to medium-sized tree, growing to 5 to 15 metres (16 to 49 ft) tall, rarely to 18 metres (59 ft), with a trunk up to 60cm broad. The leaves are dark green, leathery, shiny, (5–)10–25(–30)cm long and 4–10cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The leaves can have the scent of almonds when crushed. The flower buds appear in early spring and open in early summer in erect 7–15cm racemes of 30–40 flowers, each flower 1cm across, with five creamy-white petals and numerous yellowish stamens. The fruit is a small cherry 1–2cm broad, turning black when ripe in early autumn.[7][8]

Cultivation[edit]

Prunus laurocerasus is a widely cultivated ornamental plant, used for planting in gardens and parks in temperate regions worldwide. It is often used for hedges, as a screening plant, and as a massed landscape plant. Most cultivars are tough shrubs that can cope with difficult growing conditions, including shaded and dry conditions, and which respond well to pruning.

Cultivars[edit]

Over 40 cultivars have been selected, including[9]

  • 'Aureovariegata', variegated, leaves with a yellow margin
  • 'Magnifolia', vigorous, with great leaves up to 30-cm wide and 11-cm broad
  • 'Otto Luyken' (named after Otto Luyken), half-dwarf, with small leaves 10-cm wide and 2–3-cm broad
  • 'Zabeliana', selected for winter cold tolerance

The cultivar 'Otto Luyken' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[10]

Invasive species[edit]

It has become naturalised widely. In some regions (such as the United Kingdom and the Pacific Northwest of North America), this species can be an invasive plant.[11] Its rapid growth, coupled with its evergreen habit and its tolerance of drought and shade, often allow it to out-compete and kill off native plant species. It is spread by birds, through the seeds in their droppings.

Other uses[edit]

Laurel water, a distillation made from the plant, has a pharmacological usage. The foliage is also used for cut greenery in floristry.

Toxicity[edit]

The seed of the fruit may cause severe discomfort to humans if ingested.[12] The seeds contained within the cherries are poisonous like the rest of the plant, containing cyanogenic glycosides and amygdalin.[13] This chemical composition is what gives the smell of almonds when the leaves are crushed.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Prunus L. subg. Cerasus: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN), National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. (12 April 2013)
  2. ^ Rehder, A. 1940, reprinted 1977. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America exclusive of the subtropical and warmer temperate regions. Macmillan publishing Co., Inc, New York.
  3. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ Euro+Med Plantbase Project: Prunus laurocerasus
  5. ^ Germplasm Resources Information Network: Prunus laurocerasus
  6. ^ Mabberley, D.J. (2008). The plant book: A portable dictionary of the vascular plants (entry for Laurus). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  7. ^ Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  8. ^ Flora of NW Europe: Prunus laurocerasus
  9. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  10. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken'". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Evergreen.ca Invasive Plant Profile
  12. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  13. ^ Poisonous Plants: Prunus Laurocerasus

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