Carolina Laurel Cherry

This evergreen, ornamental is a dense shrub or small tree, 15-36 ft. tall. It is used in hedges. Small white to cream flowers open from February to April in showy elongate clusters. Fleshy, black fruit is 1/2 inch long and persist through winter. Birds eat the dry fruit. Leaves are poisonous when eaten.

Prunus Caroliniana, also known as the Carolina Cherry Laurel, Cherry Laurel, Carolina Cherry, Laurelcherry or Wild Mock Orange, is a flowering tree native to the Southeastern United States, with a natural range extending from North Carolina south to Florida and westward to eastern Texas.
Carolina laurel cherry is a handsome, small to medium sized evergreen tree which grows to about 15-36 ft tall, with a spread of about 19-29 ft. It has long been an ornamental tree and dense landscape hedge shrub in gardens which provides a nearly carefree, dark green visual screen.

The leaves are dark green, glossy, leathery, narrowly elliptic, and tapered to a pointed tip and equally tapered to the base. They are 2- 4 ¾ in long, usually with a smooth margin, but occasionally having subtle serrations. Upper surface is dark green and shiny, the lower surface lighter and duller. The twigs are red to grayish brown, slender, and smooth.

Flowers are white to cream, about 3/16 inches wide, in showy elongate clusters among the leaves, opening from February to April. Fruit is fleshy, but with a thin pulp, black, 1/2 inch long by 3/8 inch wide, egg shaped with a small tip. They persistent through winter and are primarily consumed by birds.

The leaves and branches contain high amounts of prussic acid (cyanide), 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.

Carolina Laurel Cherry Carolina Laurel Cherry BerryCarolina Laurel Cherry Leaves

References:

1. "Prunus Caroliniana." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 June 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_caroliniana

2. Mill, P. “Prunus caroliniana” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The University of Texas at Austin. 17 Jan. 2010. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PRCA

3. Carolina Laurel Cherry. (n.d.) Tropical Texana. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://tropicaltexana.blogspot.com/2012/01/fake-spring-real-spring-my-garden-and-i.html

4. Prunus caroliniana. (n.d) Encyclopedia of Stanford Trees, Shrubs and Vines. Stanford Historical Society. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://trees.stanford.edu/ENCYC/PRUNUScar.htm
 
5. Carolina Cherry Compact Shrub. (2011) ABC. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://compactcarsz.net/?p=6007