The Bay Tree – Laurus nobilis (bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree)

Trees & Shrubs

Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. It is one of the plants used for bay leaf seasoning in cooking. It is known as bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree or simply laurel.

Laurus is a genus of evergreen trees belonging to the Laurel family, Lauraceae. The genus includes three species. Worldwide, many other kinds of plants in diverse families are also called “bay” or “laurel”. (Wikipedia)

Edward Step on The Bay Tree – Laurus nobilis

Bay-Tree-Laurus-nobilis-flower-fruit-leaf The Bay Tree - Laurus nobilis (bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree)
Bay Tree – Laurus nobilis flower fruit leaf

The Bay is the true Laurel, of whose leaves and berries the wreaths were made in ancient days for poets and conquerors. Naturally it is more of a shrub than a tree, for though it often attains a height of sixty feet, it persists in sending up so many suckers that the tree-like character is lost. In cultivation, however, it is often grown on a single stem, as well as formed by cutting into arbours and arches. We call to mind a Cornish village, where a garden enclosure in its square (or “plestor,” as Gilbert White would say) was surrounded by about a dozen Bays so grown. Bays grow abundantly in the gardens of South Cornwall, and we always connected their general cultivation with the pilchard fishery. Certainly, these trees in the plestor were very convenient in the autumn and winter, for the leaves are an essential ingredient in the proper composition of that seductive dish, marinated pilchards, to which they impart their peculiar aromatic flavour.

Bay-Tree-Laurus-nobilis- The Bay Tree - Laurus nobilis (bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree)
Bay Tree – Laurus nobilis

The Bay is a native of Southern Europe, whence it was introduced at some date prior to 1562. Prior says the name is the old Roman bacca (a berry), altered “by the usual omission of ‘c’ between the two vowels,” this plant having become the bacca par excellence, because its berries were articles of commerce.

The evergreen leaves are lance-shaped, without teeth, and arranged alternately on the branchlets. Not all the trees produce the berries, for the sexes are in distinct individuals, and all the white or yellowish four-parted flowers on one tree are stamen-bearing, whilst on another individual they all bear ovaries and no stamens. The berries, at first green, ultimately become of a dark purple hue. The flowers will be found in April or May; the ripe berries in October. The Bay is grown chiefly as a shrubbery ornament, and can only survive our winters out-of-doors in the South of England.