Carolina laurelcherry

Prunus caroliniana
Family: Rosaceae

Natural History

Carolina laurelcherry is a member of the genus Prunus that includes wild cherries, peaches, apricots, almonds, and plums. Commercial fruit trees have been bred from the wild forms in this genus.

These species all have high value as wildlife food and provide a significant food resource in the early spring and summer months. Black bear, deer, possum, raccoon, and fox all depend on the fruits, as do many birds, especially thrashers, mockingbirds, catbirds, and quail. Deer may browse on the vegetative parts of the trees as well. It is considered a low-quality, low-protein browse, but provides a good source of calcium and phosphorus. The trees also provide good nesting and cover for many birds.

Carolina laurelcherry is widely planted as an ornamental, with handsome, lustrous, evergreen foliage. It is generally used as a low-maintenance hedge or screening shrub. It becomes readily naturalized into woodland areas, once planted.

Carolina laurelcherry is found in the southeastern United States from North Carolina to Florida and west as far as Texas and Louisiana.


Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Carolina laurelcherry is a small to medium-sized, evergreen tree that grows from 30' to 35' tall.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, alternate, oval-elliptical, about 3" to 4" long, and leathery. Margins are either entire, or slightly spined. The leaves are smooth, glossy green above and below and have a distinct cherry-like odor, when bruised. Many of the leaves have two, reddish glands along the sides of the lower mid-vein, on the underside of the leaf.
Fruit: The fruit is a dark, oval drupe that is about 3/8" in diameter. Some fruits may persist on the tree into the next season.
Bark: The bark is a shiny, smooth, and grayish-brown. As the trees mature, the bark becomes roughened with fissures and squarish plates.
Habitat: Carolina laurelcherry grows in rich, well-drained soils of hammocks, woodlands, slopes, and bluffs and are often seen among other hardwoods.



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