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Laurus novocanariensis
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Magnoliids
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Laurus
L. (1753)[1]
  • Adaphus Neck. (1790), opus utique oppr.
  • Appella Adans. (1763)

Laurus (/ˈlɔːrəs/)[2] is a genus of evergreen trees or shrubs belonging to the laurel family, Lauraceae. The genus contains three or more species,[3] including the bay laurel or sweet bay, L. nobilis, widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and a culinary herb.


They are slow-growing, large, evergreen aromatic shrubs or trees with alternate, ovate leaves and insignificant yellow male and female flowers borne on separate plants (dioecious). They are frost-hardy but in temperate zones they require a sheltered spot in full sun that is not subject to prolonged freezing. Plants in pots can be moved into a cold greenhouse during the winter months.[4]


The number of species in the genus has not yet been fully resolved.[3] Three species are currently accepted:[1]

Fossil history

Very old laurel trees on Madeira island
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Fossils dating from before the Pleistocene glaciations show that species of Laurus were formerly distributed more widely around the Mediterranean and North Africa, when the climate was more humid and mild than at present. It is currently thought that the drying of the Mediterranean basin during the glaciations caused Laurus to retreat to the mildest climate refuges, including southern Spain, Portugal and the Macaronesian islands. With the end of the last glacial period, L. nobilis recovered some of its former range around the Mediterranean.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Laurus L.] Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  2. ^ "Laurus". Dictionary.
  3. ^ a b "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".
  4. ^ Brickell, Christopher, ed. (2008). The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 612. ISBN 9781405332965.
  5. ^ Hewitt, G.; Butlin, R.; Eastwood, R. (2021). "Pleistocene glaciations caused the latitudinal gradient of within-species genetic diversity". Evolution Letters. 5 (4): 284–297. doi:10.1002/evl3.227. PMC 8190449.

Further reading

  • Arroyo-García, R., Martínez-Zapater, J.M., Fernández Prieto, J.A., & Álvarez-Arbesú R. (2001). AFLP evaluation of genetic similarity among laurel populations. Euphytica 122 (1): 155-164.
  • Barbero, M., Benabid, A., Peyre, C. & Quezel, P. (1981). Sur la presence au Maroc de Laurus azorica (Seub.) Franco. Anales Jard. Bot. Madrid 37 (2): 467-472. Available online (pdf file; in French).
  • Costa, J. C., Capelo, J., Jardim, R., Sequeira, M., (2004). Catálogo Florístico do Arquipélago da Madeira. Quercetea 6, 187-200.
  • Mabberley, D.J (1997). The Plant Book: a Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants. Second edition, pp. 393–394.
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