Botanical Name: Prunus caroliniana ‘Compacta’
Common Name: Compacta Cherry Laurel, Compact Cherry Laurel, Laurel Cherry, Carolina Cherry Laurel, Mock Orange, Carolina Cherry, Wild Peach
Description: This is a smaller nativar of the native Carolina Cherry Laurel. It is a handsome pyramidal shaped evergreen tree that is often used for privacy screening. It can be grown as either a small tree or a large shrub. With smooth dark green leaves and a dark brown colored bark it makes for the perfect backdrop for landscapes. Beautiful and fragrant white flowers bloom in clusters in the spring for pollination, followed by blue colored berries in the winter. Many species of birds enjoy the berries including songbirds and gamebirds. It is fast growing at 2′ or more per year. Mature height/width is 10-15′ x 6-8′. Will grow in sun to part shade areas of your garden. High deer resistance. It can handle heavy pruning, but it looks so much prettier if it’s just left to grow into its natural, beautiful shape. Likes moist but well-drained soil. Can not handle standing water for prolonged periods of time. Is somewhat drought tolerant, but prefers water on a regular basis. The new growth has a beautiful reddish tint to it, that fades to the dark green color.
It’s a host plant for a variety of butterflies, including Coral Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-Spotted Purple, and Viceroys. In addition, various birds, especially robins and cedar wax-wings, consume the dried fruit. It also has special value to our native bees.
This and the taller native Cherry Laurel are excellent native/nativar substitutes for the highly invasive Ligustrum privet (please don’t plant the privet).
Be aware that there is another plant also with the common name “cherry laurel,” but it is Prunus laurocerasus and is an introduced plant from Asia.
This plant in 2.5-gallon containers is 2-4′ tall x 1-2′ wide.
This plant in 15-gallon containers is 4-5′ tall x 2-4′ wide.
Interesting Tidbit: Poison garden alert! The seeds, twigs, and leaves of all Prunus species contain hydrocyanic acid and should never be eaten. Leaves of Prunus caroliniana are particularly high in this toxin. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Hardiness Zones 6 – 8
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