Carolina Cherry Laurel

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White flowers of Carolina cherry laurel

Prunus caroliniana flowers

Carolina Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) is a beautiful native evergreen in the landscape. As a large shrub or small tree, this plant is gorgeous year-round with its glossy green foliage. It’s a great choice for this area as it is moderately salt and drought resistant. In late winter to early spring the plant has loads of tiny white flowers that appear at the tips of the branches in clusters called a raceme. The flowers have a light fragrance to them and are very attractive to native pollinators this early in the year. The flowers eventually mature from green into a small dark fruit called a drupe. The fruits are eaten in the fall and winter by birds, which distribute the seeds throughout the area.

Carolina Cherry laurel along a road and under a power line showing a height of about 25 feet tall.

Prunus caroliniana under a power line

The plant grows best in moist soil that is well-drained. It will grow in full sun to part shade and do well in either situation. The plant is smaller and more compact when grown in full sun, but can reach heights of 15 to 35 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet. The plant will handle lots of pruning, which makes it a good candidate for taller hedges or loose screening situations.

The leaves, when crushed, have an odor something similar to maraschino cherries. However, don’t eat any part of this plant as it contains high concentrations of prussic acid (cyanide) and can be poisonous if ingested.

One other possible problem is that if the site is ideal for this plant to grow, the roots may sucker (sprout shoots) and seeds may germinate creating a weedy situation. If the plant is being grown to screen an unsightly view, this may not be a bad thing.

View this short video.