Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 89 Prunus caroliniana

Common Names: Carolina cherry laurel, cherry laurel Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
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Carolina cherry laurel blossoms
The fuzzy flowers of Carolina cherry laurel make their appearance in late winter or early spring.


This hardy evergreen tree grows 20-40 ft (6-12 m) in height with a trunk up to 10 in (25 cm) in diameter. Its alternate glossy leaves are about 2 to 4 in (10 cm) long by about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Depending on the soil, they range in color from yellow-green to a rich dark green. Fragrant white flowers appear on 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long racemes (long stalked bunches) in late winter and early spring and are displayed to maximum advantage against the dense foliage. The flowers are followed by blue-black fruits that are about 0.5 in (1 cm) in diameter. This versatile evergreen is usually encountered as a large shrubby plant in nature where it often can be seen forming large colonies. In home landscapes it is frequently kept at shrub stature by pruning but it is also very attractive when maintained as a small tree by removing suckers and removing limbs from the lower parts of the main stem(s).

Carolina cherry laurel fruits
The small juicy fruits of the Carolina cherry laurel make a tasty treat for many species of birds but are toxic to humans.


This native American tree is found on rich, moist sites, from North Carolina to Florida, and west into Louisiana and Texas. It is often seen beneath power lines upon which birds sit to digest their cherry treats and poop great quantities of seed forming linear populations along southeastern U.S. utility corridors. Long a popular garden specimen in Europe, Carolina cherry laurel, Prunus caroliniana, is now gaining popularity in the States as a handsome, low maintenance addition to our cultivated landscapes.


Carolina cherry laurel is a robust grower that adapts to many types of soil. It becomes chlorotic on alkaline soils (leaves turn yellow green). Light: Sun but is shade tolerant. Moisture: Likes moisture but drought tolerant when established. Water well to keep it looking its best. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 9. Propagation: Easily propagated by seeds, root suckers or cuttings.
Carolina cherry laural grown as a speciman tree
Left to its own devices the Carolina cherry laurel tends to grow as a large multistemmed shrub but with a bit of pruning can be grown into lovely evergreen specimen trees like this one in wonderful Woodville, Florida.


A southern favorite for trimmed hedges and screens that can be used for topiary as well. It is rarely grown as a specimen tree but should be more often. Use it to create wildlife habitat and the birds in the neighborhood will love you for supplying such a tasty treat.


Provided a rich, moist site, cherry laurel is easy to grow and maintain. Its dark green, glossy foliage provides an attractive contrast, especially in late winter. Carolina cherry laurel is inexpensive to buy, easy to propagate, and is a rapid grower that can quickly become an evergreen beauty. Find a place for this talented native American in your yard or garden.


The leaves and branches contain high amounts of prussic acid (cyanide), making it a toxic hazard to grazing animals (of course it should not be planted around childrens' play areas either - just in case...)

Jack Scheper 06/20/97, updated: 04/10/99, 06/16/01, 02/24/03, 11/09/03

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Prunus species profiled on Floridata:

Prunus americana

( wild plum, American plum )

Prunus angustifolia

( Chickasaw plum )

Prunus campanulata

( Taiwan flowering cherry, Formosan cherry, bell-flowered cherry )

Prunus caroliniana

( Carolina cherry laurel, cherry laurel )

Prunus laurocerasus

( English laurel, cherry laurel )

Prunus serotina

( black cherry, wild cherry, rum cherry )

Prunus serrula

( paperbark cherry, Tibetan cherry )

Prunus serrulata

( Japanese flowering cherry, Japanese cherry,oriental cherry, hill cherry )

Prunus subhirtella

( higan cherry, rosebud cherry )

Prunus virginiana

( chokecherry, common chokecherry, chokeberry )

Prunus x cistena

( purple sand cherry,purpleleaf sand cherry )

Prunus x yedoensis

( Yoshino cherry, Potomac cherry, Tokyo cherry )

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