Monday, April 24, 2017
Carolina Cherrylaurel - Prunus caroliniana
The Carolina Cherrylaurel or Laurelcherry - Prunus caroliniana, is a small tree or very large shrub that seldom reaches heights of more then 40 feet tall. It is semi-evergreen and can be found growing as a single specimen or in clumps or thickets. The Carolina Cherrylaurel is most often planted in ornamental hedges or as a small specimen/focal tree. It can be found growing throughout most of the South from North Carolina to Texas. It is most common around the coastal plains, where it forms very dense thickets.
Image Citation: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org
The fastest way to identify this tree when the leaves are present is to crush the leaves which will emit a very distinct cherry fragrance, when no leaves are present the other identifying features include the smooth gray bark with long raised lines or lenticels in a square/mosaic pattern. The leaves are alternate and simple in form 2 - 4 1/2 inches long by 3/4 - 1 1/2 inches wide. Leaves are generally long oval and tapered with points at each end, blades are dark green and glossy with a pale green underside. The leaf edges are usually smooth but occasionally are toothed. Containing prussic acid the leaves can be fatal to livestock if eaten in large quantities. The fruit is in small clusters of stalked, round fruit that generally remains hanging on the tree all winter. The fruits are eaten by birds and other small mammals. The bark is dark gray in color and if often found decorated with lines of holes from Yellow Bellied Sap Suckers (Sphyrapicus varius). The flowers are small only 5mm in diameter with 5 petals, creamy white in color, occuring in early - mid Spring.
Image Citation: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org