The Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a popular, familiar and welcome sight in English gardens both as a specimen shrub and handsome hedge…
The Cherry Laurel is a relative newcomer to these shores. It was only in 1576 that it was brought to England after crossing the continent from Trabzon in north-east Turkey, allowing those first Elizabethans to enjoy its glossy, dark (and ever) green foliage, sweetly scented spring flowers and attractive, red summer berries that darken to black – and, of course, the hosts of bees and butterflies it attracts. But Cherry Laurel is not just about good looks and its easy-going and low-maintenance nature, meant that this arrival quickly established itself alongside our native flora.
Cherry Laurel was a favourite of experimental doctors in the 18th and 19th and while it is still used in modern pharmacology, it is more widely found in perfumery laboratories.
The Cherry Laurel is one of those plants whose name, though accurately descriptive, is also misleading. Yes, it is of course a member of the genus Prunus and so is related to plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds but the second part of its binomial nomenclature – laurocerasus – and its English name both reflect its similarity to Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) to which it is completely unrelated. Cherry Laurel resembles Bay Laurel, but that’s as far as it goes. Our Transatlantic cousins don’t help either – in North America, Cherry Laurel is commonly known as English Laurel in recognition of the country from which it came to them. If we were to follow suit, we should rename it Turkish Laurel.