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Umbellularia californica
Umbellularia californica

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Zones 4-10, 12-24
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Full, Partial, Shade
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Umbellularia californica

California Laurel, California Bay
Lauraceae
Evergreen, Herbs, Trees

Native to California, Oregon. In the wild, form varies. On windy hillsides near coast, it is a huge, gumdrop-shaped shrub; in forests, it’s a tree to 75 ft. tall, over 100 ft. wide. In gardens, it tends to grow slowly (about 1 ft. a year) to 20 to 30 ft. high and wide. Lance-shaped, 2- to 5-in.-long leaves are medium to deep yellow green and glossy above, dull light green beneath. Wonderfully fragrant leaves can be substituted for sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) in cooking, but they have a more pungent flavor. Clusters of tiny yellowish flowers give plant a yellowish cast in spring. Blossoms are followed by olive-like, purplish, inedible fruit.

This is a primary carrier of sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum); any tanoak or susceptible oak growing in the spore shadow of an infected California laurel is likely to get the disease and perish.

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