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Trees of Yosemite (1932, 1948) by Mary Curry Tresidder


California Laurel

Umbellularia californica Nutt.

California Laurel Branch. About 4/5 Natural Size
California Laurel Branch
About 4/5 Natural Size

The California Laurel goes by several names. In our region it is called Laurel or Bay indiscriminately; in northern California it is known as Pepperwood; in the dense forests along the coast of Oregon it is called Myrtle. It is one of our finest hardwoods.

The California Laurel varies greatly in size and shape and character, adjusting itself to conditions. In the Yosemite we do not have the large individual specimens sometimes encountered elsewhere, but we usually find a tree with a short trunk sending up several slender vertical branches to form a dense crown, thirty to sixty feet in height. The trunk in old trees is reddish-brown; young stems are smooth and grayish-brown in color.

It may readily be distinguished by the aromatic odor of the leaves or bark when crushed. The dark green leaves, shiny above, are alternate along the stem on a short petiole. In shape they are oblong to lanceolate, three to five inches long, with the margin smooth. The flowers are greenish, in an umbel or cluster; hence the name “Umbellularia.” The olive-like fruit has one seed and is yellowish-green in color. It matures about October.

The California Laurel ranges from the hot and rocky talus slopes of the northern wall, where it has the Canyon Live Oak for its companion, to the cool shade at Happy Isles, or at the foot of Bridalveil Falls, where it mingles with Dogwood, Maple, and Douglas Fir.

The tree is an evergreen. In April or early May, its dense foliage and its loose clusters of bloom, profuse though inconspicuous individually, stand out boldly against the Nuttall Dogwood and the Big-Leaf Maple, whose leaf-buds are just beginning to unfold.



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