Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Carolina Cherry Laurel
Prunus caroliniana

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Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Prunus (PROO-nus) (Info)
Species: caroliniana (kair-oh-lin-ee-AN-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Prunus schipkaenisi

6 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Shrubs
Trees

Height:
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

Spacing:
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
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)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Foliage:
Grown for foliage
Evergreen
Smooth-Textured

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

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By Jeff_Beck
Thumbnail #1 of Prunus caroliniana by Jeff_Beck

By Jeff_Beck
Thumbnail #2 of Prunus caroliniana by Jeff_Beck

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Thumbnail #3 of Prunus caroliniana by Jeff_Beck

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By frostweed
Thumbnail #7 of Prunus caroliniana by frostweed

There are a total of 16 photos.
Click here to view them all!

Profile:

11 positives
3 neutrals
12 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive cagardener2013 On Mar 14, 2013, cagardener2013 from Newport Beach, CA wrote:

We live near the coast in southern ca and homes here are built very close to one another. The Prunus caroliniana has provided us with a nice privacy screen from our nosy neighbors and there is very little maintenance involved in the trees upkeep, in our opinion. In fact we are planning to remove several of our deciduous trees because it has become time consuming for us with pruning and raking leaves. The prunus caroliniana grows very fast and although it does drop berries and send off shoots it is a lot less work for us and really looks attractive as a backdrop to the colorful plants we put in front of it.

Positive Beekeepthyme On Oct 27, 2012, Beekeepthyme from Georgetown, FL wrote:

I've been wanting one or two or more of these on my place for a long time! 6 acres, some swampy, some dry piney. I finally ordered one and it's growing well. I would be pleased if it proved a little invasive as it is loved by the pollinators, birds, and this human. It is gorgeous in spring, seems well mannered in NE Florida and I like the leaves, bark, all. It is another charmer---I see nothing to dislike.

Positive ThouArtMonarch On May 14, 2012, ThouArtMonarch from Douglasville, GA wrote:

Hello to all,

I absolutely disagree with all the negatives posted about this lovely native large shrub. There are thousands of species of plants that spread by runners, suckers, rhizomes etc. which is a good thing due to habitat destruction by humans to develop areas with more buildings and parking lots and new roads. My small lot is wildlife certified, and if you want to cut back spending money on birdseed (fyi bird seed can shoot up seedlings too, so be ready if any seed gets dropped) plant a carolina cherry laurel for wildlife. So to all who enjoy butterfly gardening, birding, and creating wildlife havens, please I encourage you all to plant carolina cherry laurel. It is a must-have for birds. Ooh-rah! lets get more natives like this planted, fellow Americans. Lets go, "carolina cherry laurel, lets go", I could cheer all day about this plant : )

Douglasville, GA

Negative tlm1 On Sep 23, 2011, tlm1 from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Nasty, Nasty, Nasty.Weed Tree!!! They will certainly TAKE OVER!!!! You'll be pulling little seedlings up until the end of time!

Negative BearCub On Jun 12, 2011, BearCub from Gainesville, FL wrote:

I thought I was blessed because I had these trees grow as volunteers in my yard. Instant free shade! They grew incredibly fast - 3 to 5 feet a year, if not more. Then I noticed that they were growing up all over the yard; and I mean EVERYWHERE! They have choked out azaleas, flowers, oaks, you name it. I have spent weeks now trying to rid my yard of them. The roots meander all over and shoot up new plants yards away from the parent. I never planted a single one, but there is a house a block away that has a mature specimen and I have no doubt it's the original culprit. These should be considered a class I invasive IMHO!!

Positive dermoidhome On Apr 24, 2010, dermoidhome from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

I have a wildlife garden in zone 8b and my acre plot came with plenty of these, which are trouble free. I am favoring them over the truly invasive Chinese privet ... and the birds do love those berries and the butterflies love the flowers. The foliage is attractive and evergreen.

Negative PGWodehouse On Nov 11, 2009, PGWodehouse from Fort Walton Beach, FL wrote:

This is an easy-to-grow bush that can reach about 30 feet tall. It's evergreen, so it provides excellent shade, and birds are fond of the berries.

Unfortunately, if you no longer want it you're out-of-luck. It's horrendously invasive. I planted two, and had another volunteer that I allowed to grow. Am I sorry! I've completely removed the stump of one, and am working on the other two. I don't think I'll ever get rid of it totally. It sends shooters out throughout the yard, which go deep into the lawn and wrap themselves around the roots of other plants. Even destroying the stump doesnt kill the shooters, and they'll rapidly multiply, choking out other, more desirable plants. I've lost several flowers due to those stupid suckers, and despite my best efforts, expect to lose more. Do NOT plant this if you think you'll ever want it gone!!!

Negative seanjs On Oct 25, 2009, seanjs from Orlando, FL wrote:

This plant might be valuable for wildlife on a very very large lot. Each year a large loud group of robins comes buy and strips the trees of the fruit. Seeds will find their way to every corner of the yard and seem to prefer garden areas and pots. The worst are the suckers. Cut one sucker, get 10 more back. They spread pretty far away from the trees and dont seem to depend on mechanical damage to spur their growth. They can easily form a dense grove pretty quickly if the suckers arent kept in check. Unfortunately dealing with suckers is pretty much a constant thing. About the only thing I like about this tree is the scent of its wood being sawed through.

Interestingly, my hort professor suggested maintaining this plant as a hedge.

Neutral yotedog On Mar 13, 2009, yotedog from Raleigh, NC wrote:

I love this small tree--its absolutely gorgeous with its green, glossy, evergreen foliage, lovely dark berries and nice growth habit. However.....

its EXTREMELY prolific in my area. Reseeds like crazy--I'm constantly pulling seedlings out of flower beds--very invasive. Having said that, though, as a privacy screen between myself and neighbors, which I didn't have to plant and don't have to water, prune etc, its the best.

There does seem to be some wildlife value, as it provides cover in winter and I have seen some birds eating the berries, though they last most of the winter, so don't seem to be extremely tasty. Sorta've a food of last resort, eaten just before Spring.

Negative kimma On Feb 19, 2009, kimma from Decatur, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

So, I have TONS of Carolina Cherry Laurel growing wild in my yard. It's a recommended native plant on a bunch of people's "best" lists. But I hate it!

1)Extremely toxic: berries, leaves, flowers, bark, everything.
2) It seems invasive to me, it grows quickly, and it's everywhere in my yard, it grows into spindly trees in the shade and denser shrubs / trees in the sun. Little sprouts come up everywhere.
3) And, MOST annoying, the flowers are extremely potent and smell like dirty underwear. I seriously thought I had a BO problem the first time I passed one in bloom.

Why do people like this plant? I have seen it suggested as a native, non-invasive alternative to the nasty chinese privet - but the two plants seem equally offensive to me, and carolina cherry laurel causes the same problems that the chinese privet causes in my yard.

Positive HappyGardenerWI On Jan 23, 2009, HappyGardenerWI from Eau Claire WI & The Villages FL, WI (Zone 9a) wrote:

Carolina Cherry Laurel grows 20-30' tall in a columnar fashion, making three of them perfect to shade the west corner of our house from Florida's sun. I pruned the potted young trees slightly to encourage upright growth, and after 3 years in the ground, have mostly positive comments: they are already providing the shade we wanted, their foliage is glossy and evergreen, their blossoms are sweet, and they provide nesting sites and berries for birds. The seeds that germinate into seedling trees are easier to pull out than oak seedlings. See my uploaded picture for color and form of these delightful native trees.

Positive keep_trying On May 30, 2008, keep_trying from Augusta, GA wrote:

My back yard is informal woods with deep shade and tough clay soil. After neighbors cut some trees and brush, and a couple of fences were removed, I needed a lot of fast, tall, bulletproof screening. These fit that need perfectly with a quick 2 foot per year growth rate while store-bought species such as wax myrtle and little gem magnolias slowly took hold. Older ones planted before my time are about 20 ft tall, dense enough for some privacy, and receive no attention whatsoever.

It has a rather ordinary appearance that caused me to underrate it at first, but a neighbor advised me to take a second look, and they are really not much different from the photinias and ligustrums. New growth has a bit of a coppery tinge.

I don't think anyone ever buys these, as it is easy to find and relocate seedlings to wherever they are needed. The seedlings are far less frequent than hackberry, mimosa, redbud or sweet gum, and easier to pull than oak or pecan. Neither have we seen any sign of suckering.

The squirrels reach out as far as they can to get still-green berries. I have never seen fruit on the ground, maybe it is eaten or it slips under the leaves.

I'm now cautiously using these at a second house, again as a quick backup layer nearest the property line.

Negative plantladylin On Mar 22, 2008, plantladylin from South Daytona, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Beautiful shade tree but VERY invasive in my area. The purple berries drop and new trees sprout everywhere! I purchased one small tree in the early 1980's and these things took over our property. Finally, much to my delight two very large ones came down in the 2004 hurricanes! Unfortunately they are still all over the neighborhood and little seedlings are always sprouting all over the lawn. Easy enough to mow the teensy ones down each week ... it's the ones that sprout up in my flower beds and on adjacent property outside my fence that drive me crazy!

If you plant these trees you want to keep them away from walkways, and driveways or you will have those messy purple berries all over the place ... no fun when you have to clean up the mess they make when tracked in the house!

Positive mjz4043 On Feb 25, 2008, mjz4043 from Mansfield, TX wrote:

About 20 years ago we planted this thinking it was a small shrub, but it insisted on growing straight up and there was no stopping it. We have never had problems with the seeds sending up more plants although our pecans and oaks sure send up dozens of new trees each year.

We did notice this year after a day of really bad wind, that it was leaning lightly against the fence. My husband cut off some of the heavier branches on the fence side and that brought it more to an upright position.

We have never watered nor fertilized this tree and the birds enjoy the fruit while the bees are very happy with its flowers.

I have noticed over the past few years that it is bulging around the base of the trunk and I cannot imagine what might be causing that so I came here in case someone else had the same problem. Rather than discover too late that the tree is weak and will fall and take out a fence or the neighbor's car or part of my roof, I thought we might be forced to remove it entirely. Guess I should call the county agent.

Negative StaceyL On Feb 17, 2008, StaceyL from Augusta, GA wrote:

Although this tree is evergreen and has berries for birds and butterflies it is very invasive. I have nothing but sand at my house and it grows very fast.
If you own any livestock it is very poisonous to them. It can kill them. Do not plant or allow this tree to grow if you own horses,cattle,etc.

Neutral DebinSC On Mar 16, 2007, DebinSC from Georgetown, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

We inherited one of these with the house. It was kind of spindly & leggy. Pruning didn't improve it and it kept sending up runners so we cut it down. Could not get it dug out no matter what we did. We still are just cutting back the shoots as they come up again and again. This is in clay soil. It may not be invasive, but it's been impossible to get it gone. So be sure you want it before you plant it.

Positive escambiaguy On Mar 5, 2007, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

This tree/shrub is native to the southeastern coastal plain and is NOT an invasive species. While it is true that it can be weedy, it is no more of a problem than maple seedlings poping up everywhere. I planted about eight of them around my property line and they make a good privacy screen. They also provide food for migrating birds in the winter.

Negative AlabamaHank On Nov 12, 2006, AlabamaHank from Mobile, AL wrote:

This tree, from what I have seen is extremely invasive, and not terribly stable or strong. I have removed this tree whenever I could. It is quite difficult to kill. The small six inch seedlings are difficult to pull, they root deeply and will send up a new seedling when pulled. Every year each mature tree will send out hundreds of suckers in a ten meter range about the tree, even with mowing you are left with hard twigs protruding from the ground, which will happily enter the soles of your bare feet.
The wood is worth nothing except for perhaps outdoor burning.
Contrary to published information my opinion is this tree grows very quickly, I treat as a pest and invasive species.

Negative mamccleskey On Jul 5, 2004, mamccleskey from Arlington, TX wrote:

My father planted one of these trees many years ago. Now, they are all over the yard and neighborhood. They are impossible to kill. I have tried every kind of weed killer and stump killer I can find. Roots go everywhere and new trees grow from these roots. Everyplace a berry drops a new tree grows. I could go in my back yard right now and pull up about a hundred seedlings in about 20 minutes. Mowing over them doesn't stop them.

I can't imagine why anyone would want this tree in their yard. It is nothing more than a giant weed!

Positive frostweed On May 1, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Some people complain about certain trees or plants because they either drop leaves or fruits and they are labeled undesirable.
I have had nothing but good things happen with this tree. The flowers are lovely and the birds love the fruits. Some do come up here and there but just as with any other tree there is allways something that either drops or sprouts. Should we not plant oaks because they drop acorns and make seedlings? Should we not plant pecans? I rest my case,all plants just like us humans create some waste, but if handled properly all so called waste becomes food for plants and animals.

Positive Paulwhwest On Apr 30, 2004, Paulwhwest from Irving (Dallas area), TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

It may be somewhat invasive, but it is drought tolerant, and disease resistant. The flowers attract bees, and the berries attract birds. Personally I think the flowers and berries are quite attractive.

Positive Jamespayne On Apr 15, 2004, Jamespayne from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Know where you want this tree BEFORE you plant it in your landscape. It does spread, but lawnmowing can control the up-starts, like under an Oak Tree where small Oaks are sprouting. The berries are dark and messy, so keep away from your automobiles, sidewalks, and clothes lines!! Once planted it can spread through the neighborhood!

Negative burnside On Apr 15, 2004, burnside from Columbia, SC wrote:

This is a very attractive evergreen tree, but birds love the seeds and as a result seedlings appear everywhere! I spend a great deal of my time outside pulling up seedlings. Do not plant this tree unless you want to keep it inside, and I've never thought of it as an indoor plant....perhaps in Minnesota. It must grow all over the south.

Neutral MotherNature4 On Apr 14, 2004, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This tree is very attractive with shiny evergreen foliage and lovely white blossoms, providing a feast for our eyes, butterflies and birds. Unfortunately, the fruit crop is usually quite heavy and it is very messy underneath the tree. The seedlings come up EVERYWHERE. It makes a dense shade and is fast growing.

Negative Lanan On Apr 13, 2004, Lanan from Hawkinsville, GA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This tree will grow anywhere here in south Georgia. It is VERY invasive. Once seedlings are established you can't hardly kill them. The VERY SMALL flowers in spring STINK and fall all over everything. Will post picture soon. If you cut the tree down it will still send up limbs from the root.....and the roots run deep and wide. Very hard to dig up. They will come up all over your yard if you get one of these trees. My fence row had many young trees growing along it when I purchased this home ......... Still fighting those same young trees and the family that has grown since. I have only one tree that is a nice size and in a good location. I think it is the one that started it all!

Negative benjance On Aug 18, 2003, benjance wrote:

Having had problems with this plant I have researched several sources for information regarding its characteristics. The following best describes them and relates well to my personal experience.

Habitat: Deep, well-drained rich moist soil
Mature Height: 12 to 30 feet
Habit: Shrub or Tree
Landscaping and Planting:

Cannot be successfully grown in areas where the soil quality does not have sufficient nutrients. It does not tolerate heavy clay soils. It is preferable to plant it in a well drained soil. When planted under the right conditions, this plant can have a fast growth rate. It can be planted in semi shade to full sun position.


Regional...

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

,
Atmore, Alabama
Clayhatchee, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Little Rock, Arkansas
Granada Hills, California
Redding, California
Bartow, Florida
Cinco Bayou, Florida
Clearwater, Florida
Crystal River, Florida
Gainesville, Florida
Georgetown, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Macgregor, Florida
Ocala, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida
Paradise Heights, Florida
Pine Hills, Florida
Sebring, Florida
South Daytona, Florida
The Villages, Florida
Umatilla, Florida
Zephyrhills South, Florida
Augusta, Georgia
Douglasville, Georgia
Hawkinsville, Georgia
Martinez, Georgia
North Decatur, Georgia (2 reports)
Suwanee, Georgia
Louisville, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Chalmette, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Zachary, Louisiana
Las Vegas, Nevada
Garden City Park, New York
Mooresville, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina (2 reports)
Winston-salem, North Carolina
Conway, South Carolina
Darlington, South Carolina
North Augusta, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Austin, Texas
Cleburne, Texas
Dalworthington Gardens, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Houston, Texas (2 reports)
Irving, Texas
Roman Forest, Texas



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