- Laurus azorica, syn. L. canariensis. Known as Azores Laurel.
- Laurus nobilis L., known commonly as Bay Laurel, True Laurel, Sweet Bay, Grecian Laurel, or simply Laurel, is the source of the spice Bay leaf. It was also the source of the Laurel wreath of ancient Greece.
- Laurus novocanariensis. Madeira and Canary Laurel.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Laurus (the ancient name). Lauraceae. Laurel. Sweet Bay. The laurel or sweet bay tree of the florists is the most universal of evergreen tub-plants.
Laurus gives name to the family Lauraceae, which includes Cinnamomum, Camphora, Persea, Sassafras, Lindera, Benzoin, and other genera. Many species have been referred to Laurus, but with the exception of two, these species are now placed in other genera. These two are L. nobilis, Linn, (the subject of this sketch), and L. canariensis, Webb & Berth., of the Canary Isls. They are small trees, with stiff alternate simple leaves: flowers dioecious or perfect, small and inconspicuous, in small axillary umbels which in bud are inclosed in a globose involucre; perianth with a short tube and a 4-parted limb; stamens 8-12 or more, and staminodia often present (staminodia usually 4 in fertile fl.); ovary scarcely sunk in the receptacle, the style short: fruits a small berry.—L. nobilis, Linn., the sweet bay, has stiff, dull green, entire, alternate leaves lanceolate or lance-oblong in shape: yellowish flowers in early spring: succulent, purple, cherry-like frs. It is native to the Medit. region, sometimes attaining a height of 40-60 ft., but rarely assuming a true tree-like form. As a cultured subject, it is grown as a small standard tree, with a close-sheared top. The leaves are sometimes used in cookery and the making of confections, because of their pleasant aromatic flavor. The wreaths with which the heroes of antiquity were crowned were made of laurel leaves It is the laurel of history and poetry. Many other trees are known as laurel because of the similarity of their leaves The cherry laurel is Primus Laurocerasus; the Portugal laurel, Primus lusitanica; laurel of the southern states. Prunus caroliniana; the laurel, or mountain laurel of Calif, is Umbellularia californica. The Laurus Benzoin of trade catalogues is Benzoin aestivale; L. Sassafras is the sassafras tree; L. Camphora is the camphor tree (see Cinnamomum). It should be said that the bay rum of commerce is not made from the sweet bay, as some persons suppose, but from a pimenta.
The laurel endures abuse and neglect, the head can be trimmed to almost any shape, and the growth may be kept within small limits year after year. F.R. 1:669. (Fig. 2115.) It is, therefore, the most popular of plants for decoration of open-air or exposed restaurants, esplanades, architectural appurtenances, and the like. Although much used in America, it is still more popular in Europe. Of the European dealers one may order plants with heads trained to pyramids, cones, globes, and the like, and with bodies long or short. The plant will endure considerable frost. It is grown in the open in England: "The sweet bay bush in the farmer's or cottage garden comes with its story from the streams of Greece, where it seeks moisture in a thirsty land along with the wild olive and the arbutus. And this sweet bay is the laurel of the poets, of the first and greatest of all poet and artist nations of the earth—the laurel sacred to Apollo, and used in many ways in his worship, as we may see on coins, and in many other things that remain to us of the great peoples of the past". Although so universally used, there are few important horticultural varieties,— the variegated-leaved and crisped-leaved (the crimped- leaved being sometimes known as L. regalis) forms being the best known. There is also a willow-leaved form (known as L. saticifolia). Propagated by cuttings, and sometimes by seeds.
Cultivation of bay trees. (H. A. Siebrecht.)
The sweet bay trees in their various trained forms of standard, globular, oval, conical and pyramidal shape, are almost indispensable in connection with the now prevailing architecture of our modern palaces of the Renaissance, Venetian, as well as Colonial and old English forms. Most of the leading architects require these formal and highly ornamental trees for the proper setting of their building designs.
Very few such trees, if any, are raised or cultivated in this country, for several reasons: First, because the climatic conditions for their rapid growth and development are far inferior to the climate of Belgium, which country produces nine-tenths of all these trees which are used in all shapes and forms; second, the higher labor cost and expenses to produce them in this country prohibit the cultivation and constant training.
It is estimated that several hundred thousand bay trees are sold every year in Europe and America. They are mostly imported from Belgium and Holland, where they are cultivated as follows: Cuttings 3 to 4 inches long from well-ripened wood are put in sharp sand, either under bell-glasses or in glass cases. Bottom heat is not essential. After the cuttings have rooted, they are placed in small pots, in fairly rich sandy loam, with good drainage, and can then be put in a hotbed, with gentle bottom heat, where they will at once make a good strong growth. After this they are planted, as a rule, in nursery rows, in rich sandy soil, with perfect drainage. They will make a strong shoot 3 to 5 feet in length in one season. These shoots are tied up to stakes. At the end of the growing season and long before the cold weather sets in, these young plants, together with their stakes, are taken up and put into their winter quarters, which usually is a well-lighted and ventilated shed—an ordinary barn-like shed, sometimes built several feet into the ground and provided with skylights and ventilators. These plants are set in close rows and watered once or twice a week, according to the weather. Little or no fire heat is used in these sheds unless the weather gets extremely cold. The temperature is kept just above freezing. In the spring they are taken out and either potted and plunged in nursery rows, or planted out, as before. Plenty of water, rich peaty soil and the congenial moist atmosphere near the seacoast induces them to make a fast and luxuriant growth. Thus they are cultivated continually until the plants have been trained into the desired form, and as soon as they have attained enough of this form to show their character, which usually is from five to six years after propagation, they are planted in properly proportioned hardwood tub's and are then ready for the market, or to be further cultivated, perhaps for a good many years, until they grow into large specimens. The trees are cut back and trimmed into shape once a year, after the new growth is well matured.
The peaty muck soil in which they are grown abroad is very deceptive to Americans, and many fine trees have been ruined by not understanding its nature. Its dark color always makes it look moist. Sometimes when the soil looks moist enough the trees are really dying from drought.
In retubbing trees, there is danger of using for filling material a soil that is too heavy. The water then runs into the new soil, leaving the old soil dry. If the trouble is not detected soon the trees may be spoiled. The only thing to do in such cases is to comb out the old ball and cut back to live roots. The tree can then be planted in the open to gain a new set of roots, after which the top can be cut back to live wood. The tree may thus be eventually brought into a good shape again.
As a rule, bay trees are not good house plants. They do not like the dry heat of a dwelling. They can, however, stand considerable heat if they have plenty of fresh air and plenty of water. In spring and early summer, when they are making and finishing their growth, they can stand any quantity of liquid manure or of strong manure mulching, for they are great feeders. The cured leaves of the sweet bay are used in putting up packages of rice, and impart a rich and agreeable aroma. CH
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Pests and diseases
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- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963