|Natural range of Prunus caroliniana|
Prunus caroliniana, known as the Carolina Cherry Laurel, with syns. Cherry Laurel, Carolina Cherry, Laurelcherry or Wild Mock Orange, is a flowering tree native to the Southeastern United States, from North Carolina south to Florida and westward to eastern Texas. It was once classified as Laurocerasus caroliniana. It is not to be confused with its European relative Prunus laurocerasus, which is also called Cherry Laurel, though mainly known as English Laurel in the U.S.
Prunus caroliniana is a small to medium sized evergreen tree which grows to about 8–13 m tall, with a spread of about 6–9 m. The leaves are dark green, alternate, glossy, coriaceous, elliptic to oblanceolate, 5–12 cm long, usually with an entire (smooth) margin, but occasionally serrulate (having subtle serrations), and with cuneate bases. The twigs are red to grayish brown, slender, and glabrous. (Reproductively mature trees have entire margins, whereas immature ones often have serrations.)
The white to cream-colored flowers are produced in racemes (stalked bunches) 5–8 cm long in the late winter to early spring. The fruits are tiny black cherries about 1 cm in diameter, which persist through winter and are primarily consumed by birds (Feb. - April).
The leaves and branches contain high amounts of cyanogenic glycosides that break down into hydrogen cyanide when damaged, making it a potential toxic hazard to grazing livestock and children. Due to this, it is considered highly deer-resistant. When crushed, its leaves and green twigs emit a fragrance described as resembling maraschino cherry fragrance or that of almond extract.
Prunus caroliniana has long been an ornamental tree and landscape hedge shrub in gardens, particularly in Europe. The tree is considered hardy in USDA zones 7B through 10A. It prefers full sun and well-drained, acidic soil, often developing chlorosis if grown in overly alkaline soil. It is known to grow to elevations of 152 m (500 feet).
Due to its prolific seed production and ease of seed dispersal via birds, this tree is sometimes considered a "weedy native" species. When damaged or cut down to the ground, it is capable of vigorously resprouting. It often forms shrubby thickets in the wild.
Cultivated varieties include:
- Prunus caroliniana 'Compacta' grows to about half the usual height and width of the species.
- Prunus caroliniana 'Cherry Ruffles' has wavy/ruffled leaf margins.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014.
- "Prunus caroliniana". Floridata.
- "Prunus caroliniana". Germplasm Resources Information Network.
- Allen, Charles M.; Dawn Allen Newman, Harry H. Winters (2002). Allen's Nature Ventures. Los Angeles: Pitkin. p. 192. ISBN 0-9718625-0-8.
- "Prunus caroliniana". Native Plant Database. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
- "Prunus caroliniana: Cherry-Laurel". University of Florida.
- Little, Elbert L.; Alfred A. Knopf (1986). The Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Trees (5th ed.). New York, NY. p. 497. ISBN 0-394-50760-6.
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