Bay Laurel: Time from Seed to Bloom
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Jinseong Jeong
Posted on: January 27, 2000

I am very interested in cultivating bay laurel(Laurus nobilis ). So I’m studying the botany of the tree.

Can one differenciate between male and female trees, if the plantlet is propagated from a cutting of the bloomed tree?

Bay laurel flowers are greenish yellow to yellow and on one and the same tree can be either unisexual or bisexual. In other words, any tree can have female, male or perfect (bisexual) flowers, but most flowers will be perfect. Perfect flowers contain both the male and female reproductive organs. The male reproductive organs, the stamens will be easy to spot, because there are 12 or more per flower and they each consist of a filament lifting a two parted pollen mass above the rest of the surface of the flower. The female part of the flower or pistil is in the center and will look a bit like a baseball bat with the handle pointing upwards. The tip will be roughened so that pollen grains can adhere to it more easily.

The physiological age of the seedling is mature enough to bloom, I think. How long does it take to see the flowers or the fruits .

When plants are propagated as cuttings taken from sexually mature plants, they will flower and fruit much sooner than plants propagated from seeds. Since flowering and fruiting takes a lot of energy, the seed has a build in programme that prevents flowering until the plant has reached a predetermined age or size. Once that programme has shut down, reproduction by cuttings does not revive it.

The plants need good light to flower. We have found that we have to winter our shrub shaped plant in a cool, bright greenhouse and summer it out of doors to get the inconspicuous flowers in the spring. I could not find any book estimating the time to fruiting maturity for bay laurel, but in any case it will be heavily influenced by growing conditions. Other trees for which such information is recorded need 5 to 10 years to reach sexual maturity when cutting propagated and twice that much when grown from seed.

Our plants are usually seed propagated, resulting in greater variability but also less chance of a disease racing through the whole seedling bench, wiping out the crop for that year.

And, what is the method to make the distinction between female and male flowers?

Female flowers will have only the one pitil sticking up from the flower, while male plants will lack a pistil, but have lots of stamens sticking up.

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