Botanical Name:  Persea borbonia var. borbonia

Common Name:  Redbay, Red Bay, Sweet Bay, Silk Bay, Red Bay Persea, Laurel Tree

Description:  Redbay is an evergreen tree or large shrub native to Florida where it is found growing in coastal forests, bog margins, forested swamps, and other consistently moist, lowland, mesic habitats. Mature plants will reach around 50′ tall with a similar spread and a dense, oval to rounded canopy, but may take on a shorter, more shrubby form in certain habitats. The reddish brown, furrowed bark can be quite showy on older specimens. The fragrant, elliptic to ovate, glossy foliage will reach around 3-6″ long and 0.75-2″ wide. Small clusters of inconspicuous, light yellow-green flowers bloom from late spring into early summer and are followed by 0.5″ wide, oval-shaped drupes which mature from green to dark blue or black. The fruits tend to persist on the tree well into winter and are an important food source for birds including quail, turkey, and many songbirds. Redbay is a larval food source for the spicebush swallowtail, Palamedes swallowtail, and the endangered Schaus swallowtail which is endemic to Florida. Attracts bees including Colletes banksi, C. brimleyi, C. nudus, Augochloropsis metallica, Evylaeuspectoralis, Epeolus zonatus, Apis mellifera (honeybee) and  Bombus impatiens, and other pollinators.

Very versatile in where it can be grown: rich, evenly moist to wet, acidic, well-draining soils or in drier locations. Likes sun, part sun, to part shade.

The fragrant foliage (bay leaves) is used to flavor soups and stews.

This is susceptible to laurel wilt. Leaf disfiguration from psyllid galls is common but does not typically cause lasting damage. Twig borers, scales, and aphids can be problematic, especially for young plants with large infestations. Branches are prone to breaking in strong winds. Weak branch unions combined with fruit and twig drop make this tree best sited away from driveways, sidewalks, or other high traffic areas.

Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Moderately tolerant of salty wind and may get some salt spray.

This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2-4′ tall.

Plant Lore:  Genus name comes from the Greek name persea for an Egyptian tree (Cordia myxa). The specific epithet borbonia honors Gaston Jean-Baptiste de Bourbon, Duke of Orléans (1606-1660) who was known for creating gardens and collecting plants at his palace in Blois, France.

Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 11


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