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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Umbellularia californica - California Bay Laurel

The Bay Laurel tree bring back so many memories of my childhood. Growing up in San Mateo near the creek I came to love the smell of this tree. Whether riding our bikes over the leaves, climbing the trees are just hanging out I always loved the smell. Apparently I first kissed my wife under one in San Mateo Park.

These native evergreen trees grow 30-40' but can reach 100 feet or so. They are wide spreading in full sun but they usually grow in more closed canopy situations and become taller and more narrow. Older trees often develop beautiful burls with multiple stems.



This is my favorite tree on a great single track ride through Wilder State Park.



Here is the burl from a different tree.



The thick leathery leaves are simple, alternately arranged, elliptical to lanceolate shaped, 2-5" long, about 1" wide, with entire margins. Upper surface is usually dark green. Usually leathery. Of course they are highly aromatic and can be used in cooking.



Flowers are small, yellowish green, pretty nondescript. Opening early summer.



Fruit is a small avocado, about an inch long but I don't think I would make guacamole out of them.



Native to California up to southern Oregon, but only along the coast.

Misidentification:
Laurus nobilis, the true bay has similar leaves but they tend to be undulated on the margins.

Location:
Aptos
on the campus of Cabrillo College in the mass of trees growing on the corner of the south entrance. Just below the "new" health sciences complex and on the site of the original horticulture department.

Santa Cruz
Wilder State Park
Evergreen Cemetery has a stunning one, located just above a red painted wall and railing.
Harvey West Park - all along the perimeter of the park, especially nice ones up behind the lawn area.

Watsonville
Maranatha Drive and Green Valley Rd. Very nice large one.


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