leathery leaves are dark green and very glossy above, paler below
with a few scattered teeth along the margin. They are 5-18 cm long
on a short stalk up to 10 mm long. When crushed the
leaves smell of almonds (unlike Spurge-laurel
which do not smell of almonds).
Laurel is an evergreen shrub,
branching from the base, up to 6 m high. It was widely introduced
as an ornamental hedge plant and suited to almost all kinds of soil.
of dull white 5-petalled flowers, 8 mm across, arise from leaf axils
berries develop, red at first, but
shiny black when ripe in autumn.
contain prussic acid or cyanide and were formerly crushed and
used in jars by entomologists,
to kill butterflies and other insects.
It is often
planted as game cover in woodlands in winter, as the leaves keep
the ground beneath warm and dry.
It is a native
of South East Europe, introduced into Britain in 1576.