Wild Bay Leaf Plant
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Louis C. Bernasconi
Posted on: December 10, 2006

I moved here to Fulton, Texas, USA, along the bay front. I have in the yard some kind of bay leaf plant growing, it is (or they dozens) about 6 ft tall. The leaves when crushed smell like bay leaves. Many years ago I dug up one from here and used the leaves for cooking all the time. However I noticed that the plants have a dark berry on the leaf stem tip. I did not remember the berries on the plant I dug up. The plant I dug up did not come from this batch of plants. I have heard some bay leaf plants are toxic. Please can you help me with this.

P.S. If you have any literature on the good or the toxic varieties that would help.

Bay leaf plants produce clusters of cream-yellow small flowers with conspicuous stamens from the leaf axils of leaves located near the tips of branches. The flowers later become dark purple berries. However, the shape and leathery texture of bay leaves is very common amongst tropical plants, some of which are of course toxic. For this reason, I think you are taking quite a chance, by trying to use a wild plant if you are not sure of its ID. Consult "The Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" by Deni Bown (also available from Richters under catalogue number B2730). Under Laurus nobilis you will find a photo of three different leaf forms found in the species, as well as a picture of the flowers.

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