Umbellularia Species, California Laurel, Headache Tree, Oregon Myrtle

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:Litsea californica
Synonym:Tetranthera californica



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun





Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us



Bloom Color:

Pale Green


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Hereford, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

, British Columbia

CARLOTTA, California

Calistoga, California

Chico, California

Davis, California

East Palo Alto, California

Elk Grove, California

Fairfield, California

HOOPA, California

Hayward, California

Lake Nacimiento, California

Los Angeles, California(2 reports)

Malibu, California

Oakland, California

PASO ROBLES, California

Paradise, California

Santa Rosa, California(2 reports)

Simi Valley, California

Valley Center, 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)

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On May 18, 2015, Sookier from Sooke,
Canada wrote:

I stumbled across yet another use for the leaves many years ago while visiting San Francisco... On a whim, and since the aroma reminded me of eucalyptus oil, I inserted half a dozen leaves in my shoes! Yep... A natural deodorant and very soon my feet started being soothed and relaxed, presumably from the laurel's oils... I will be trying to grow it here on Vancouver Island since the evergreen Madrone also grows around here.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


On Mar 13, 2006, growin from Beautiful, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 L... read more


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.


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.


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.