Cherry Laurel

Cherry Laurel Flowers

This common and typically dense garden hedge plant is not truly a laurel. True laurels (Lauracea family) include other common garden shrubs such as Bay/ Sweet laurel, well known for its leaf’s culinary contributions.

Cherry laurel as the name tells us is part of the Prunus or cherry family, although not native to the UK like the more familiar Bird and Wild cherry trees. Cherry laurel gets its name from the strong resemblance of its large, broad, evergreen leaves, to true laurel species (Laurus azorica for example).

Cherry Laurel - Prunus laurocerasus
Cherry Laurel – Prunus laurocerasus

Cherry laurel can be seen in flower right now, later in the season the ‘cherries’ will form in clusters where the flowers were. The flesh of this fruit is technically edible but great care must be taken not to ingest the flesh if it is overly bitter and certainly the seed cannot be eaten. This is due to the presence of the cyanide-like compound found in this family’s fruit. The rest of the plant is also toxic and should not be ingested by humans – the leaves may give off an almond-like scent when crushed.

Cherry Laurel Flowers
Cherry Laurel Flowers

Cherry laurel is quite invasive in the UK having escaped from gardens and can now be found in our woodlands competing with our native species. Some woodlands that run pheasant shoots intentionally use the shrub as cover for the birds and we ourselves can make use of it during a sudden downpour.

The thick glossy evergreen leaves can be used as an improvised lubricant in the bearing block of a bow drill friction fire set as can other waxy leaves such as Holly and Rhododendron.

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