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Prunus laurocerasus - Cherry Laurel

Family:Rosaceae
Habit:Shrub
Height:6
Width:10
Synonyms:Laurocerasus officinalis. Padus laurocerasus.
Range:E. Europe to W. Asia. More or less naturalized in Britain[17].
Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel) is a Shrub which grows to a height of 6m and a width of 10m . It has a moderate growth rate. It has a hardness rating of 7.
Cherry Laurel will flower in October to December. the seeds ripen from March
The flowers from this plant are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and they are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera

Soil Information

Cherry Laurel will grow in light (sandy),medium (loamy),hard (clay) soil. It is / is important for the soil to be well drained.
The soil prefers the following PH / acid levels :
- pH of less than 6, Acidic soils
- pH between 6 and 8, Neutral soils
- pH greater than 8, Basic soils
Cherry Laurel prefers moist soils

Ideal Planting Locations

Cherry Laurel can grow in full, semi shaded areas and areas with no shade.

Woods in Britain[17].

Planting places suited to this plant described below.

Cultivation Details

Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but it is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present, growing badly on shallow chalk[98, 200]. Extremely tolerant of shade, it succeeds in the dense shade of trees with almost no direct light and in their drip line[197, 200], though it fruits better in a more sunny position[200]. A very ornamental plant, there are many named varieties[200]. The cultivar 'Otto Luyken' is a low growing narrow-leafed form that flowers in spring and autumn. The tiny flowers are powerfully fragrant[245] but have a rather offensive odour[182]. This is a matter of opinion, some people find the smell sweet and delightful[K]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants[11], it should be introduced with care since it often self-sows in woodlands and can prevent the successful regeneration of native trees by shading out the seedlings[208]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. The flowers attract butterflies and moths[30]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]. Subject to bacterial canker which can kill large branches[124]. Trim (preferably with secateurs) in spring or late summer[200]. Old plants can be cut back hard into the old wood in spring and will soon recover[200].

Edible Uses*

* See disclaimer
Edible Rating: 4/5
Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet and reasonably pleasant when fully ripe[65, 74, K]. The cultivar 'Camelliifolia' bears huge quantities of fruit[K]. This is the size of a large cherry and, when fully ripe, has a reasonable flavour raw with a jelly-like texture and a slight astringency[K]. Some sources suggest the fruit is poisonous, this probably refers to the unripe fruit[7]. We have eaten this fruit in quite large quantities without the slightest ill effects (this also includes a 2 year old child) and so any toxicity is of a very low order[K]. However, any fruit that is bitter should not be eaten in quantity because the bitterness is caused by the presence of the toxic compounds - see the notes above on toxicity. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. Water distilled from the leaves is used as an almond flavouring[2, 46, 61, 183]. It should only be uses in small quantities, it is poisonous in large amounts[183]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses*

* See disclaimer
Medicinal Rating: 3/5
The fresh leaves are antispasmodic, narcotic and sedative[4, 7]. They are of value in the treatment of coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia and indigestion[4, 238]. Externally, a cold infusion of the leaves is used as a wash for eye infections[238]. There are different opinions as to the best time to harvest the leaves, but they should only be used fresh because the active principles are destroyed if the leaves are dried[4]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238].

Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[11, 200]. Cuttings of mature wood, October in a sheltered north facing border outdoors[113]. Layering in spring.

Scented parts of the plants

Flowers : Fresh

Known Hazards

All parts of the plant contain hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Other Uses

Very tolerant of trimming, this plant makes an excellent hedge especially in shady areas[11, 29, 200]. Some forms of this plant, notably 'Cherry Brandy', 'Otto Luyken', 'Zabelina' and 'Schipkaensis' are low-growing and make very good ground cover plants for sun or shade[182, 197]. Water distilled from the leaves is used in perfumery[4]. The bruised leaves, when rubbed within any container, will remove strong odours such as garlic or cloves so long as any grease has first been fully cleaned off[4]. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. Wood - pinkish grey. Used in turnery and lathe work[74].

Cultivars

'Cherry Brandy' - A low growing form, it can be used for ground cover in sunny or shady positions[182, 197].
'Camelliifolia' - A large shrub, growing more than 4 metres tall and wide[K]. The fruit is the size of a large cherry, it is borne abundantly and has a pleasant flavour when fully ripe with a jelly-like texture, though there is a slight astringency[K].
'Otto Luyken' - This is a low growing narrow-leaved form that flowers freely in the spring and again in the autumn. It grows about 1.2 metres tall[11] and makes a very good ground cover for sun or shade[182, 197].
'Schipkaensis' - A very hardy low growing form to about 2 metres in height[11, 200], it can succeed outdoors in colder climates than other forms of the species, tolerating the cold winters of continental northern Germany and parts of North America[11]. It can be used for ground cover in sunny or shady positions[182, 197].
'Zabelina' - A low growing very hardy form that can succeed in areas with winters as cold as those of northern Germany[11]. The leaves that are almost willow-like[11]. It seldom grows more than 90cm tall but will usually eventually become 3.5 metres or more wide[11]. Very free-flowering, it is very useful for ground cover in sunny or shady positions[11, 182, 197]. It retains its low habit even when growing in shade[11].

References

Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Bean. W.
Author: Bean. W.
Rating:
Publisher : A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
Date of Publication : 1981

Flora of the British Isles.
Clapham, Tootin and Warburg.
Author: Clapham, Tootin and Warburg.
Rating:
Publisher : A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
Date of Publication : 1962

The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Huxley. A.
Author: Huxley. A.
Rating:
Publisher : Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
Date of Publication : 1992

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