Flora of Scotts Creek Watershed
Umbellularia californica - California Bay
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Family Name: Lauraceae
Common Names: California Bay, California Laurel, Bay Laurel, Pepperwood, Oregon Myrtle, Myrtlewood, Spice-tree
Origin: Native to California
Habitat: Grows in forests and woodlands of canyons, valleys, and chaparral, below 1600 m
Life Form and Duration: Perennial Shrub or tree, 9-45 m
Comments on overall growth: Erect, single (crowns are rounded to conical) or multistemmed (multispired crown). May be more shrub like in dry areas.
Bark and Stem Description: Bark is greenish to reddish brown, on mature trees is ~2.5 cm thick, broken into scales.
Foliage Type: Evergreen
Foliage Description: Leaves very aromatic, when crushed release a strong, spicy, peppery aroma. Leaves are simple, alternate, leathery, elliptical to lance shaped, 5-15 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide. Margins are entire. Upper surfaces are smooth, shiny and dark green, under surfaces lighter yellowish-green.
Infloresence Description: Umbels (flat topped clusters) of 4-10 flowers in upper leaf axils.
Flower Description: Flowers are yellow-green, less than 12 mm in diameter. Lacks petals, sepals 6-8 mm long and oblong-ovate.
Flowering Season: December-May
Fruit Type: Drupe
Fruit Description: Fruits are generally solitary, fleshy and olive-like, round to ovoid, 2-2.5 cm long, greenish changing to dark purple as matures and dries
Edibility: Leaf oils may have toxic effects in some people.
Plant Use: "Foliage used by deer and birds, fruits and seeds eaten by small mammals. Wood is used by woodworkers. Leaves used in cooking (U. californica differs from the bay leaves used in European cooking). The oils of the leaves and fruit were used by Native Americans medicinally and as an insect repellant."
Other Comments: "vigorous sprouter, shade tolerant, susceptible to fire."