Portugal laurel (Eng), loro (Spa), llorer-cirer de Portugal (Cat), Portugaleko erramua (Baq), loureiro de Portugal (Glg), loureiro-de-Portugal (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? The specific name lusitanica means 'from Lusitania', the name the Romans gave Portugal, hence its common name, Portugal laurel.
This small evergreen tree can be up to 10 m tall. It has no thorns and a very dense crown that casts a deep shade. The trunk is erect, dark grey, and has more or less smooth bark. The young twigs are usually dark red, and the leaf stalks are also often reddish in colour. These lack the glands that are present in other species of this genus. The leaves are persistent, simple, alternate, oval-lanceolate, with a slightly serrated margin. They are leathery in appearance, green dark and shiny on the upper side, and pale and hairless on the underside. The white flowers appear from May to June, and develop in erect pyramidal groups that, once mature and after being fertilised, form small shiny, black, bitter cherries that narrow towards the end.
The Portugal laurel forms stands in mid-altitude mountain gorges and shady streams. It is not a riparian species because also it grows in protected areas on shady slopes and together with humid woodlands of kermes, English and even holm oaks. This tree is, in fact a relict of the ancient laurel-leaved forests native to the rainier climates of previous times, which have survived in enclaves with high soil and environmental humidity, so that the summer drought period is much reduced. It prefers lime-free substrates and humid, temperate climates with lots of rain and fog. We can find it at altitudes of 300 m to 1300 m.
Iberian specimens (subsp. lusitanica) are mainly native to the north and western half of the peninsula; they are also found in Morocco and the French Basque country. In Portugal there are around 20,000 examples of this species, more than 70% of those found on the peninsula, and Las Villuercas (Cáceres), is home to 60% of the Spanish specimens. In Macaronesia (the islands of the Canaries, Madeira, Cape Verde and Azores) there are two subspecies that are different from the one found on the peninsula.