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Uses

Toxic parts

All parts of the plant contain hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Edible uses

Notes

Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet and reasonably pleasant when fully ripe[65, 74, K]. The cultivar 'Camelliifolia' bears huge quantities of fruit[K]. This is the size of a large cherry and, when fully ripe, has a reasonable flavour raw with a jelly-like texture and a slight astringency[K]. Some sources suggest the fruit is poisonous, this probably refers to the unripe fruit[1]. We have eaten this fruit in quite large quantities without the slightest ill effects (this also includes a 2 year old child) and so any toxicity is of a very low order[K]. However, any fruit that is bitter should not be eaten in quantity because the bitterness is caused by the presence of the toxic compounds - see the notes above on toxicity. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter and contains one large seed[2].

Water distilled from the leaves is used as an almond flavouring[3][4][5][6]. It should only be uses in small quantities, it is poisonous in large amounts[6].

Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.

Unknown part

Fruit

Material uses

Very tolerant of trimming, this plant makes an excellent hedge especially in shady areas[7][8][2].

Some forms of this plant, notably 'Cherry Brandy', 'Otto Luyken', 'Zabelina' and 'Schipkaensis' are low-growing and make very good ground cover plants for sun or shade[9][10]. Water distilled from the leaves is used in perfumery[11]. The bruised leaves, when rubbed within any container, will remove strong odours such as garlic or cloves so long as any grease has first been fully cleaned off[11]. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[12]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[12].

Wood - pinkish grey. Used in turnery and lathe work[13].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The fresh leaves are antispasmodic, narcotic and sedative[11][1]. They are of value in the treatment of coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia and indigestion[11][14]. Externally, a cold infusion of the leaves is used as a wash for eye infections[14]. There are different opinions as to the best time to harvest the leaves, but they should only be used fresh because the active principles are destroyed if the leaves are dried[11]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[14].

Ecology

Ecosystem niche/layer

Soil surface

Ecological Functions

Ground cover


Hedge

Forage

Nothing listed.

Shelter

Nothing listed.

Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[2]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[2]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[15]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[7][2]. Cuttings of mature wood, October in a sheltered north facing border outdoors[15].

Layering in spring.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Prunus laurocerasus. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.



Cultivation

Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[16][7]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[7]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but it is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present, growing badly on shallow chalk[17][2]. Extremely tolerant of shade, it succeeds in the dense shade of trees with almost no direct light and in their drip line[10][2], though it fruits better in a more sunny position[2].

A very ornamental plant, there are many named varieties[2]. The cultivar 'Otto Luyken' is a low growing narrow-leafed form that flowers in spring and autumn. The tiny flowers are powerfully fragrant[18] but have a rather offensive odour[9]. This is a matter of opinion, some people find the smell sweet and delightful[K]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants[7], it should be introduced with care since it often self-sows in woodlands and can prevent the successful regeneration of native trees by shading out the seedlings[19]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[14]. The flowers attract butterflies and moths[20]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[21][2]. Subject to bacterial canker which can kill large branches[22].

Trim (preferably with secateurs) in spring or late summer[2]. Old plants can be cut back hard into the old wood in spring and will soon recover[2].

Crops

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Prunus laurocerasus. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Prunus laurocerasus.

Descendants

Cultivars

Varieties

None listed.

Subspecies

None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Taxonomy
Binomial name
Prunus laurocerasus
Genus
Prunus
Family
Rosaceae
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Botanic
Propagation
Cultivation
Environment
Cultivation
Uses
Edible uses
  • Unknown part (Condiment)
  • Fruit (Unknown use)
  • Seed (Unknown use)
Material uses
  • Unknown part (Cleanser)
  • Unknown part (Dye)
  • Unknown part (Essential)
  • Unknown part (Wood)
Medicinal uses
  • Unknown part (Antispasmodic)
  • Unknown part (Narcotic)
  • Unknown part (Ophthalmic)
  • Unknown part (Sedative)
Functions & Nature
Functions
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Environment
Hardiness Zone
7
Heat Zone
?
Water
moderate
Sun
full sun
Shade
permanent shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Strong wind
Ecosystems
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Life
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
6 x 10 meters
Fertility
?
Pollinators
Flower Colour
?
Flower Type











References

  1. ? 1.01.11.21.3 Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
  2. ? 2.002.012.022.032.042.052.062.072.082.092.102.112.122.132.14 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  3. ? 3.03.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
  4. ? 4.04.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.16.2 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  7. ? 7.07.17.27.37.47.57.6 Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  8. ? 8.08.1 Shepherd. F.W. Hedges and Screens. Royal Horticultural Society. ISBN 0900629649 (1974-00-00)
  9. ? 9.09.19.2 Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray ISBN 0-7195-5043-2 (1992-00-00)
  10. ? 10.010.110.2 Royal Horticultural Society. Ground Cover Plants. Cassells. ISBN 0-304-31089-1 (1989-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.111.211.311.411.511.6 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  12. ? 12.012.112.2 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
  13. ? 13.013.1 Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR. Israel Program for Scientific Translation (1968-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.114.214.314.4 Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  15. ? 15.015.1 Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
  16. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  17. ? Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. ()
  18. ? Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World. Robert Hale. London. ISBN 0-7090-5440-8 (1994-00-00)
  19. ? Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover J. M. Dent & Sons ISBN 0-460-12609-1 (1990-00-00)
  20. ? Carter D. Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. Pan ISBN 0-330-26642-x (1982-00-00)
  21. ? RHS. The Garden. Volume 112. Royal Horticultural Society (1987-00-00)
  22. ? RHS. The Garden. Volume 113. Royal Horticultural Society (1988-00-00)
  23. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)