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PlantFiles: California Laurel, California Bay Laurel, Oregon Myrtle, Headache Tree
Umbellularia californica

Family: Lauraceae (law-RAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Umbellularia (um-bel-yoo-LAR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: californica (kal-ih-FOR-nik-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Umbellularia californica var. californica
Synonym:Tetranthera californica

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

5 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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There are a total of 19 photos.
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13 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive atlatl On Dec 5, 2012, atlatl from Santa Rosa, CA wrote:

I'm trying to gather as many bay laurel nuts as I can find because I love to eat them, but this seems to have been an off year for bay laurel nut production. Is anyone aware of any trees that bore well this year that I might be able to gather from? Are there nuts on the tree, or maybe on the ground now? Thanks!

Positive Oakland58 On Oct 29, 2010, Oakland58 from Oakland, CA wrote:

I have 3 huge multitrunked Umbellularia californica on my lot and one massive single trunked tree that measures over 10' in circumfrance and is over 110' tall. These are all part of a very unique native plant community that blankets canyons and creeks in the East Bay foothills. In many areas there are acres and acres of unbroken evergreen cover made up of this species and Quercus Agrifolia - the Coast Live Oak. Umbellularia is messy - big leaf drops, messy olive like fruits, and a tendancy to collect dust and pollution on the sticky leaves turning them black. The smells are extraordinary and the wildlife habitat they create are supurb. I actually pull up at least 30 newly sprouted trees every year from my 1 acre city lot. A keeper.

Positive cgarvin On Jan 2, 2008, cgarvin from Cottage Grove, OR (Zone 8a) wrote:

these are very beautiful trees with a wonderful scent, new foliage in spring opens in a nice red tint. You may want seed from known cold hardy stands if you live in a zone on the edge. This is also fairly easy from seed as long as it is very fresh. once dried out germination drops dramatically.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Dec 29, 2007, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

The oldest California bay in the world is here in Hayward ca. An enormous tree 1,200 years old. I have touched that tree. An awe inspiring monarch.

Positive ManicReality On Jun 25, 2007, ManicReality from Houston, TX (Zone 10a) wrote:

I love the smell of my baby tree, as well as cooking with the fresh leaves.

Positive growin On Mar 13, 2006, growin from Vancouver, BC (Zone 8b) wrote:

There is a large tree in my area with several smaller plants. They make large wide/round evergreen shrubby trees with nice form. Seed drop can be a little messy but easily cleaned. I haven't had much difficulty starting from seed once scarified.

Positive 4paws On Mar 13, 2006, 4paws from Citra, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

We have many of these trees on our acre in zone 9b and I love them, especially the fact that they are evergreen. Some are very large. I haven't noticed the messy problems noted by a previous writer. We've had to cut two or three down, and from the stumps have come shrubs. There are many babies around, so I'm planning to try to use some as a property border/privacy screen by keeping them pruned.

Positive claudia483 On Mar 11, 2005, claudia483 from Santa Rosa, CA wrote:

My Bays are old. I would like to find out just how old.
The circumfrnce is approx 5 feet plus
They are very messy, lots of leaves and a mold, fungus,
that coats everything in the winter. The deck and patio furniture have to be power washed each spring. I respect their age but others in the family grow weary of the mess.
The fragrance is wonderful, and for me offsets any negatives.

Positive catguy On Feb 22, 2005, catguy from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9a) wrote:

My 12 year old bay tree started as a one gallon stick and is now a beautiful 6 foot perfectly shaped, 3 trunk tree. It is growing in a planterbox underneath a mesquite tree so never gets full sun, but dappled sun all day.

Positive deborahgrand On Aug 17, 2004, deborahgrand from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

Mine has grown from a 6" potted plant, and is now a 6' tree. It is a little leggy, but may have been from being rootbound for a while. Actually, in BR, La, it does better with part shade -- otherwise, dries out too much and leaves get "sunburned" looking.

I do have a neighbor who has had success with air layering his -- took about 3 months for roots to form, but they really took off once the roots started.

Positive Larabee On May 27, 2004, Larabee from Houston, TX wrote:

This is my favorite tree!

Bay Laurels (also called Mountain Laurels or simply Bay trees) start out as herbs. They grow slowly and can be pruned and used as hedges, but put in the ground and allowed to grow they will become tall trees. To keep them small, simply pot them rather than planting them in your yard. Their fragrant leaves are useful in cooking to flavor foods, but you should NOT eat the actual leaves, which may be too sharp for your throat and can harm your mouth (though they are not dangerous to handle). Their aroma naturally repels bugs such as mosquitos and cockroaches. To bring the bug-repellant properties indoors, add dried Bay leaves to your potpourri. This is simply a beautiful and very useful evergreen.

I live in zone 9a and have a Bay Laurel potted in a large pot on my patio. All it needs is full sun and careful watering (I use a tiny bit of fertilizer with my water because my Bay is in a pot and can't get nutrients from the ground. When watering, put your finget two inches in the soil--if it feels wet, do NOT water it. Otherwise, water sufficiently). This will reward you with new growth in an easy-to-see light green (leaves darken as they mature, as with many plants such as gardenias and English Ivy). Other than watering and occasionally checking for weeds in the soil, Bays are pretty happy if just left in the sun. In the ground, their roots may be close to the top of the soil, so be very careful when planting close to the tree so you don't harm the Bay's roots.

One word of warning: though you may propagate this plant through seeds and cuttings, it is VERY difficult to do so and propagation has a high failure rate. Successful stem cuttings can take up to nine months to begin developing roots. Your best bet is to buy a healthy Bay from a reputable nursery.

Positive olivias On Jun 15, 2003, olivias wrote:

This tree's fruit can be eaten when ripe. The seeds can be roasted and eaten as well. It has been used for centuries for its many healing qualities as well as spicing up unique dishes. Walking through these trees in the wild is a must, and camping even better.

Positive CoyoteSpirit On Oct 28, 2002, CoyoteSpirit from Citrus Heights, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Its a big can use the leaves in cooking to flavor soups and stews but dry the leaves first of it will be to strong.

Neutral mystic On Oct 27, 2002, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is the only species for this genus.The leaves are so aromatic that inhaling their scent may cause a headache. But this herb is traditionally used as a remedy for headaches by infusions or the leaves placed on the forehead. Leaves can also be used as an insect repellent. These trees may require winter protection when young.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hereford, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
, British Columbia
Calistoga, California
Carlotta, California
Chico, California
Davis, California
East Palo Alto, California
Elk Grove, California
Fairfield, California
Hayward, California
Hoopa, California
Lake Nacimiento, California
Los Angeles, California (2 reports)
Malibu, California
Oakland, California
Paradise, California
Santa Rosa, California (2 reports)
Simi Valley, California
Deerfield Beach, Florida
Fountain, Florida
Summerfield, Florida
Honomu, Hawaii
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Kenner, Louisiana
Ashland, Oregon
Coos Bay, Oregon
Corvallis, Oregon
Cottage Grove, Oregon
Creswell, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Sumter, South Carolina
Brownsville, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Houston, Texas (3 reports)

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