How to Identify a Bay Leaf Tree and Make the Most of Its Benefits

The Bay Leaf tree, also known as Bay Laurel, is not only a beautiful evergreen but also a versatile plant with a range of culinary and medicinal uses. Its aromatic leaves are highly sought after by cooks for their distinctive flavor, and its low maintenance nature makes it a favorite in gardens. In this guide, we will explore how to identify a Bay Leaf tree, the types of Bay Leaf trees, its uses, and some interesting facts about this remarkable tree.

Physical Appearance of a Bay Leaf Tree

The Bay Leaf tree is typically trimmed to a smaller size, but it can reach a height of up to 60 ft. Some distinguishing features of this tree include:

1) Bark

The shiny grey bark of the tree fades over time.

2) Fruit

After the petals have faded, small glossy black and purple berries appear.

3) Flowers

In spring, the tree produces clusters of small white and yellow blooms.

4) Leaves

The thick, leathery leaves of the Bay Leaf tree are a vibrant shade of green. You can start harvesting the lobed leaves once the tree has completed its first full year of growth.

5) Spread and Height

The Bay Laurel tree can grow up to 60 ft tall and has a spread of about eight meters.

Types of Bay Leaf Trees

The Bay Laurel tree belongs to the genus Laurus. There are two other evergreens in the same family worth mentioning:

Laurus azorica
1) Laurus azorica: Commonly known as the Azores Laurel, it has lustrous dark foliage and fragrant white blooms.

Laurus novocanariensis
2) Laurus novocanariensis: This shrub-like bush is renowned for its leathery vivid green leaves and olive-shaped fruit.

Uses of the Bay Leaf Tree

The Bay Laurel tree’s leaves are its most enticing feature. The leaves, commonly known as Bay Leaves, are widely used to flavor various dishes such as stews, soups, brines, fish, and pickles. They are also used in sauces, tea, lamb, and chicken recipes. In French cuisine, they are included in a “Bouquet Garni,” a herb basket containing other herbs like parsley and thyme. Bay leaves can be used dried or fresh, but they must be removed from the dish before serving as they can have sharp edges.

The berries of the Bay Leaf tree have medicinal uses. The oil extracted from the berries is known to alleviate flatulence. Additionally, the oil is used in the production of perfume, soap, and candles.

Where Can You Find Bay Leaf Trees?

While the Bay Laurel tree is native to the southern Mediterranean region, it is commercially grown in many other parts of the world, including North America and Asia. Some countries where Bay Leaf trees can be found are Algeria, Turkey, Portugal, Morocco, France, Spain, West Indies, Italy, the United States, and Canada. These trees require a steady water supply, well-drained soil, and adequate sunlight to thrive.

Ideal Conditions for Bay Leaf Growth

Here are the ideal conditions for the growth of Bay Leaf trees:

1) Soil pH

The pH of the soil can be neutral, acidic, or alkaline.

2) Perfect Soil

The Bay Laurel tree thrives in any fertile, damp, and well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It can grow in chalk, sand, clay, or silt soil.

3) Exposure

Bay Leaf trees prefer direct sunlight to moderate shade. They need protection from winter conditions and strong winds.

4) Aspect

These trees can grow in various aspects, including South, North, West, or East.

Fascinating Facts About Bay Laurel Trees

The legend of the Bay Laurel tree can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. For example, in Greek mythology, Daphne was transformed into a Laurel tree by her father Peneus to escape from Apollo’s advances. Apollo wore a wreath of Laurel leaves on his head to symbolize his eternal devotion to Daphne. Since then, the Bay Laurel tree has been a symbol of accomplishment and distinction.

Other interesting facts about the Bay Laurel tree include:

  • Magical abilities have been attributed to the tree in various cultures to protect against evil and tragedies.
  • The Bay Laurel was a symbol of victory in Roman Times and is the origin of the term “baccalaureate.”
  • In Christian belief, the Laurel represents Jesus’ resurrection.
  • According to Chinese legend, there is a giant Laurel tree on the moon, hence the name “moon-laurel” for the plant.

Edible and Non-Edible Bay Leaves

Bay leaves from the Laurus nobilis plant are safe to consume. However, the leathery leaves with jagged edges should always be removed from the dish before serving. Other “bay” plants are also believed to be safe for consumption. For example, India’s bay leaf known as Malabar Leaf or Indian cassia (Cinnamomum Tamala) has a similar appearance to bay leaves but a flavor more like cinnamon.

On the other hand, all parts of the mountain laurel plant (Kalmia latifolia) are poisonous. Ingesting significant amounts of honey derived from its blooms can cause gastrointestinal distress. The cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is also toxic and can lead to respiratory difficulties. Bay laurel leaves can be harmful to pets like dogs, horses, and cats. However, they are safe for humans to use in small amounts.


The Bay Laurel tree is not only visually appealing but also offers a range of culinary and medicinal benefits. Its distinctive flavor makes it a popular choice for various dishes, and its leaves have been used for centuries in different cultures. Remember to use the proper Bay Leaf species for culinary purposes and avoid any non-edible varieties. Whether you want to add flavor to your cooking or create a peaceful garden, the Bay Laurel tree is a fantastic choice.

And if you’re interested in straightening a bent tree in your yard, check out our article on “How to Straighten a Bent Tree.” It’s worth your time and effort.

Bay Laurel Tree