Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles


Common Names

  • California Laurel


  • Tetranthera californica Hook. & Arn.
  • Oreodaphne californica Nees
  • Laurus regia Dougl., nom. nud.
  • L. regalis Hort.

Other species in genus


    Attached singly along the axis not in pairs or whorls.
    Situated in an axil.
    Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
    Lying flat.


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    Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

    An evergreen tree, 80 to 100 ft high in favourable situations in California, with a dense head of very leafy branches; young shoots at first minutely downy. Leaves alternate, leathery, with a pungent aromatic odour when crushed, narrowly oval or oblong, but tapered at both ends, 2 to 5 in. long, 34 to 112 in. wide, not toothed, dark green and glossy above, paler beneath, almost glabrous on both surfaces except when just unfolding. Flowers 14 in. across, yellowish green, produced during April in terminal and axillary umbels 34 in. wide, on a common stalk 1 in. long. Fruit roundish pear-shaped, 1 in. long, 34 in. wide; green changing to purplish. Bot. Mag., t. 5320.

    Native of Oregon, from Douglas Co. southward, and of California, where it occurs throughout the coastal range almost to the Mexican border and is also found in the Sierra Nevada. The best stands occur in moist valley bottoms, but most of these have given way to cultivation. At the other extreme, it occurs at high elevations as a stunted, even prostrate shrub. All parts of the plant are aromatic, and the leaves give off a volatile oil which can cause sneezing and headache – even, it is said, unconsciousness – if sniffed too long and deeply. It may also cause skin irritation in some persons. The timber, which is heavy and often beautifully figured, was used in cabinet work and for panelling.

    U. californica was discovered by Menzies in 1792, and introduced by David Douglas, who met with it in a deep and shady side-valley of the Umpqua river of Oregon in October 1826, and felled a tree to obtain the seeds. This fine tree is hardy in the open at Kew, being only occasionally injured by severe frost. On a wall it has flowered there, and borne fruit. It likes a sheltered spot, and is about equal to the bay laurel as an ornamental evergreen. The tree at Kew, near the Temperate House, mentioned in previous editions as 32 ft high, measures 52 × 734 ft (1967). Other notable specimens are: Warnham Court, Horsham, Sussex, 55 × 6 ft + 514 ft (1969); Nymans, Sussex, 40 × 714 ft (1966); Borde Hill, Sussex, 51 × 814 ft (1973, cf. 25 × 212 ft in 1934); Langley Park, Slough, 41 × 414 ft (1974); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 42 × 734 ft (1975).

    From the Supplement (Vol. V)

    specimens: Kew, near Temperate House, 66 × 914 ft (1978); Holland Park, London, Pool Enclosure, 56 × 614 ft (1981); Greenwich Park, London, 50 × 414 ft + (1984); Warnham Court, Sussex, Nursery, 62 × 634 + 534 + 512 ft (1984); Nymans, Sussex, Magnolia Garden, 72 × 914 ft and, Drive, 62 × 812 ft (1985); Borde Hill, Sussex, 55 × 834 ft (1978); Lydhurst, Sussex, 69 × 614 ft (1980); Keys House, Binstead, Isle of Wight, 70 × 1134 ft (1978); Langley Park, Slough, Bucks., 50 × 412 ft (1979); Crathes Castle, Kinc., 20 × 314 ft (1981); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 42 × 734 ft (1975).


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