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Umbellularia californica
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California Laurel
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Umbellularia californica

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About California Laurel (Umbellularia californica) Bay Laurel is an evergreen tree in the Lauraceae family that is native to coastal forests of California at elevations from 0-5000 feet. It is found throughout the Klamath Range, Coast Ranges, Transverse Range and Sierra foothills and is especially numerous between Sonoma and Santa Cruz Countis. It is an attractive tree of variable size, from a 6 ft. shrub to 60 ft. in height, but most often in the 20 ft. to 45 ft. range. Ultimate size and speed of growth depend largely on local conditions. Its bark has a color range from maple blonde to walnut brown. It releases terpenes that kill off competing plants which can somewhat limit understory planting. Leaves are oblong, smooth-edged and have a peppery aroma, and are often used as a cooking spice. They sometimes turn a spectacular golden color during the autumn in northern California. Flowers are small, white, yellow or yellowish green, and open in late winter and early spring. The fruit is a round green berry lightly spotted with yellow and purple. It is one of the few garden trees that tolerates serpentine or clay soils.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
6 - 80 ft (1.8 - 24.4 m)

Max. Width
3 - 30 ft (0.9 - 9.1 m)

Upright, Rounded

Fragrant - Pleasant

Growth Rate


Typical of the Laurel family and may be used in cooking.

Flower Color
Yellow, Cream, White, Green

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Coastal forests, creek sides, foothills, canyons

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
3' - 11310'

Annual Precip. ?
10.0" - 141.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 4.96"

Coldest Month ?
24.6° F - 56.0° F

Hottest Month ?
45.5° F - 83.3° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 34.12 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils including clay and serpentine

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 10° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8*, 9*, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
It releases terpenes that kill off competing plants which can somewhat limit understory planting. California Wild Grape (Vitis californica) is said to work well in the understory. Compatible trees/shrubs include Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), Ceanothus sp., California Coffeeberry (Frangula californica), Silk Tassel (Garrya elliptica or fremontii), Tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Oak (Quercus sp.), and Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

Wildlife Attracted
Numerous insects and birds are attracted to the flowers and fruits.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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