Florida Forestry Information
Lauraceae
The Laurel Family
 
The laurel family includes about 45 genera and 1,000 species of plants, the majority of which are evergreen.  While most of the trees of this family are tropical, a few extend into the Temperate Zones.  Three plants with arborescent forms of this family are common in Florida. 


 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the trees of this family:
 
camphor tree
redbay
swampbay
 
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Cinnamomum camphora 
camphor tree 
 
camphor tree, photo by Julie Anne Ferguson DemersHabit 

The camphor tree is native to Asia but has been widely planted in the south as an ornamental and shade tree and is commonly naturalized.  Its potentially large trunk is short and rises into several large, ascending branches, which form a crown of dense, attractive foliage. 

Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  The leaves are 2-3 inches long, 1/2-2 inches wide, oval-shaped, and taper into an acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped or rounded.  Leaf margins are entire.  Leaf surfaces are bright green and lustrous above, duller and slightly grayish-green below.  Leaf petioles are shorter than the blades.  The leaf blades are somewhat leathery when mature. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers of this tree are bisexual, appearing at the end of branched stalks. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a black drupe, about 1/4 inch in diameter, held by a leathery floral, funnel-like tube that occurs in clusters at the end of a stalk. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs green or green suffused with red and glabrous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is smooth and gray to gray-brown. 
 
Habitat 

The camphor tree is naturalized in vacant lots, along fence and hedge rows, and in various mixtures of upland hardwoods.  It is found throughout northern Florida, southern Georgia, and southern Alabama. 
 
Use 

An aromatic substance in the leaves, stems, roots, and fruits of the camphor tree have been commercially used in the manufacture of medicinal remedies. 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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Persea borbonia 
redbay 
 
Habit 

The redbay is an attractive evergreen tree, sometimes reaching 60-70 feet in height, 2-3 feet in diameter.  In the forest it develops a clear, cylindrical bole and a dense, pyramidal crown with ascending branches.  The fleshy, yellowish roots are deep and widespread. 
 
red bay leaves, photo by Chris DemersLeaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  The leaves are 3-4 inches long, 1-1.5 inches wide, oval to elliptical-shaped, with a rounded or acute apex.  Leaf bases are broadly wedge-shaped or rounded.  Leaf margins are entire, thickened and curl under.  Leaf surfaces are bright green and lustrous above, paler with a waxy layer below.  Leaf petioles are stout, rigid, grooved above, red-brown, about 1/2 inch long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers of this tree are perfect and appear on supporting stalks. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a small, bright blue or lustrous blue-black drupe, held by a supporting funnel-like tube.  The pit is surrounded by a thin layer of dry flesh. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, those of the current season are 3-angled and are somewhat fluted, light brown, and glabrous except for a coating of pale or rusty-red pubescence when they first appear.  The pith is whitish, rounded, and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is reddish-brown and divided by deep, irregular fissures into broad, flat, superficially scaly ridges.  If you scrape off some of the bark surface of this tree, you will find a reddish-brown layer underneath.  This is a distinguishing characteristic. 

Habitat 

The red bay grows on rich, moist soils along streams and borders of swamps in association with both conifers and hardwoods.  It occasionally appears on dry, sandy soils in association with longleaf pine.  It is found on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains from Delaware to eastern Texas; north through Louisiana to southern Arkansas; also in southern Florida. 
 
Use 

This tree is known to many because of its aromatic leaves, which are the "bay leaves" used to season sauces and soups.  The wood is used in cabinetry and in interior finishing.  It was employed in boat construction at one time. 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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Persea palustris 
swampbay 
 
Habit 

The swampbay is small evergreen tree, reaching 30-40 feet in height, 10-15 inches in diameter.  In the forest it develops a clear, cylindrical bole and a dense, pyramidal crown with ascending branches.  The fleshy, yellowish roots are deep and widespread. 
 

Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  The leaves are 3-4 inches long, 1-1.5 inches wide, oval to elliptical-shaped, with a rounded or acute apex.  Leaf bases are broadly wedge-shaped or rounded.  Leaf margins are entire, thickened and curl under.  Leaf surfaces are bright green and lustrous above, paler with rusty red hairs below.  These hairs are a key distinguishing factor between this tree and the redbay.  Leaf petioles are stout, rigid, grooved above, red-brown, about 1/2 inch long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers of this tree are perfect and appear on long, supporting stalks. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a small, bright blue or lustrous blue-black drupe, held by a long, supporting funnel-like tube.  The pit is surrounded by a thin layer of dry flesh. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, those of the current season are 3-angled and are somewhat fluted, light brown, and with dense pubescence.  The pith is whitish, rounded, and homogeneous. 

Bark 

The bark is brown and divided by deep, irregular fissures into broad, flat, superficially scaly ridges. 
 
Habitat 

The swampbay frequents pine-barren swamps and river bottoms along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains from southern Virginia to southern Louisiana. 
 
Use 

This tree also has aromatic leaves, similar to those of redbay but more subtle. 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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