Trees of Big Sur and the Santa Lucia Mountains of Central California

California Bay Laurel Umbellularia californica

california bay laurel in big sur

This aromatic tree typically grows 80-100 feet tall at maturity. Its distinctly pungent leaf makes this an easy tree to identify. It is similar, but stronger than the Mediterranean bay that is commonly used in cooking.

This is a tree of many names, Bay, Bay Laurel, California Bay, and in the north Oregon Myrtle and Myrtlewood.

bay forest
Pure stand Bay forest

bay barkCalifornia Bay Laurel bark.

California Bay Laurel flowers
Typical Bay flowrers are often yellowish white, although the sepals can be light pink. I have seen flowers on the tree from fall through the winter months. Variable weather, elevation, and location, seem to effect when the flowers bloom.

California Laurel Bay flowers and leaves
White flowers sometimes with a hint of pink.

California Laurel Bay nut
Bay nuts range from yellow-green to bright green to purple as they ripen. They have an outer fleshy "shell" with a yellowish white nut inside. Native peoples roasted the nuts and ate them. The olive sized fruit can be found from mid summer to late fall.

Ripe California Bay nut
Many Bay nuts fall from the tree or are eaten by animals before they reach this rich purple color.

Range of Bay nuts
An example of the range of Bay nuts from a single tree.

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