Laurus nobilis, commonly called bay laurel, is native to the Mediterranean.

Laurus nobilis MHNT Fleurs
Photo: Laurus Nobilis MHNT Fleurs - Wikimedia Commons: Didier Descouens

It is a pyramidal, aromatic, evergreen tree or large shrub that grows to as much as 60’ tall, but is usually seen much smaller (10-30’ tall).

For garden purposes, it is often pruned to 8’ tall or less. Leathery, thick, elliptic to oval, glossy dark green leaves (2-4” long) from this tree are commonly used as a culinary herb. Small yellowish green flowers bloom in spring. Trees are dioecious (separate male and female trees). Flowers on female plants, if pollinated, are followed by single-seeded purple-black berries. The branches of this species were twisted into headpieces by ancient Greeks to crown victors and the word laurel is used to indicate prestige and is the root of such words as baccalaureate and poet laureate and used in phases such as “resting on one’s laurels”. Other common names include Bay Laurel, Bay Tree, Mediterranean Sweet Bay, True Laurel, Grecian Laurel, Laurel Tree, or just by the name “Laurel”. This plant was introduced into cultivation as early as to Britain at least as early as 1650 and received the Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit in 1993.