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What is Laurus?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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The laurus, or sweet bay laurel, is a member of the laurel family. It is an evergreen tree with ovular, shiny green leaves, small yellow flowers, and purple or black berries. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is often grown for its aromatic leaves. This plant typically grows best in partial shade and needs rich, well-drained soil and usually needs frequent watering to thrive.

Believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, the laurus is often cultivated in countries such as Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and Morocco. The leaves of this plant can be used in cooking. The essential oil of laurus leaves can be used in perfume.

The laurus is capable of growing to a height of 5 feet (1.52 m), though, when cultivated, the plant typically reaches heights of no more than 3 to 10 inches (7.6 to 25.4 cm). Its leaves are dark green, shiny, thick, leathery, elliptical in shape, and usually about 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.16 cm). The laurus generally produces clusters of small, chartreuse flowers. Its berries are black or dark purple in hue and typically grow to about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long.

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This plant normally likes nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and plenty of water. It usually needs partial shade, although it can often grow in full sun. The laurus can be cultivated as an outdoor plant in climates where the average coldest temperature ranges between 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.44 Celsius) and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.44 Celsius). Ideally, the laurus needs temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.44 Celsius) and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 Celsius) to thrive.

A popular potted plant, the laurus can be brought inside during the cold winter months, which is generally considered advisable. The laurus typically prefers between four and 12 hours of strong, bright light per day. Natural light is considered best, but strong artificial light can also meet the laurus' needs.

Ideally, one should refrain from harvesting the leaves of the laurus during the first two years of its life, except in small amounts for personal cooking. The plant should usually be pruned in the spring. It can typically be propagated through layering or sowing seeds, both of which should usually be done in the spring, or by taking cuttings, which should ideally be done in the late summer or early autumn.

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