Bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree, true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree, laurel (Eng), laurel (Spa), llorer (Cat), erramua, ereñotz (Baq), loureiro (gall,); loureiro, louro (Por).
“When will you come laurel, sweet tyrant? / I love you not, I am for olives, / but for my brow yes, beautiful Joanna”.
‘Como suele correr desnudo atleta’, Lope de Vega
The laurel is a small tree with an erect trunk and smooth, greyish bark. It can be up to 10 m tall and casts a dense shade. The entire plant contains essential oils that make it aromatic, particularly its leaves, which are persistent, simple, and alternate. They are up to 15 cm long, oblong-lanceolate, and have an entire margin, although this can sometimes seem a little wavy. Both sides of the leaves are dark green. The flowers are yellowish, rather inconspicuous, and male and female blooms are found on different plants. The pea-sized fruits are fleshy and black when ripe (drupes).
This species grows in areas with a mild, cool climate, together with other deciduous tree formations, although it may form groves. It is usually associated with areas near the sea, ravines, and humid, shady valleys, on any soil type. It is not found at high altitudes because it suffers with frosts.
This plant occurs naturally in the Mediterranean region, although it is widely is cultivated throughout the Iberian Peninsula. It sometimes naturalises, as it germinates very well from seed, meaning its natural range is difficult to delimit. It is much more abundant along the Cantabrian and Atlantic coastlines, in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, although in the south it is present in the mountains around Cádiz.