Habitat: Damp rocks and ravines, thickets and old walls
Description: A broadly conical tree, this species grows up to 40 ft (12 m) high and 30 ft (9 m) wide, but is generally smaller in cultivation. Its glossy, dark green leaves are smooth and leathery and in Classical times were used to make the victor’s ‘crown of laurels’. It produces small, star-shaped, fragrant yellow flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by small, round, green berries that ripen to dark purplish black in fall (autumn). This tree is particularly suited to clipping and shaping
Uses: Leaves - fresh or dried. A spicy, aromatic flavouring, bay leaves are commonly used as a flavouring for soups, stews etc and form an essential ingredient of the herb mix 'Bouquet Garni'. The leaves can be used fresh or are harvested in the summer and dried. The flavour of freshly dried, crushed or shredded leaves is stronger than fresh leaves, but the leaves should not be stored for longer than a year since they will then lose their flavour. The dried fruit is used as a flavouring. The dried leaves are brewed into a herbal tea
Culture: Cool- to warm-climate plants, they are moderately frost hardy and do best in sheltered positions in sun or part-shade in fertile, well-drained soil. They are tolerant of coastal conditions. Propagation is from seed in fall (autumn) or from cuttings in summer.