Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt., N. Amer. Sylv. 1(2): 87 1842. (syn: Oreodaphne californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nees; Tetranthera californica Hook. & Arn.; Umbellularia californica var. californica );
 


Umbellularia californica is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests of California and slightly extended into the state of Oregon.[1] It is endemic to the California Floristic Province. It is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia.

The tree was formerly known as Oreodaphne californica.[2] In Oregon, this tree is known as Oregon Myrtle, while in California it is called California Bay Laurel, which may be shortened to California bay or California laurel. It has also been called pepperwood, spicebush, cinnamon bush, peppernut tree, headache tree,[3] mountain laurel,[4] and Balm of Heaven.[4]
The tree’s pungent leaves have a similar flavor to bay leaves, though stronger, and it may be mistaken for Bay Laurel. The dry wood has a color range from blonde (like maple) to brown (like walnut). It is considered a world-class tonewood and is sought after by luthiers and woodworkers.
The tree is a host of the pathogen that causes sudden oak death.

It is an evergreen tree growing to 30 m tall with a trunk up to 80 cm thick. The largest recorded tree is in Mendocino County, California, and measured (as of 1997) 108 feet (33 m) in height and 119 feet (36 m) in spread.[7] 
The fragrant leaves are smooth-edged and lance-shaped, 3–10 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, similar to the related Bay Laurel though usually narrower, and without the crinkled margin of that species. 
The flowers are small, yellow or yellowish-green, produced in a small umbels (hence the scientific name Umbellularia, “little umbel”). 
The fruit, also known as “California Bay nut”, is a round and green berry 2–2.5 cm long and 2 cm broad, lightly spotted with yellow, maturing purple. Under the thin, leathery skin, it consists of an oily, fleshy covering over a single hard, thin-shelled pit, and resembles a miniature avocado. Umbellularia is in fact closely related to the avocado’s genus Persea, within the Lauraceae family.[citation needed] The fruit ripens around ctober–November in the native range. 
The leaf can be used in cooking, but is spicier and “headier” than the mediterranean bay leaf, and should be used in smaller quantity. Umbellularia leaf imparts a somewhat stronger camphor/cinnamon flavor compared to the mediterranean bay.[18] 

Some modern-day foragers and wild food enthusiasts have revived Native American practices regarding the edible roasted fruit, the bay nut.[14][16][19]
Umbellularia californica is also used in woodworking. It is considered a tonewood, used to construct the back and sides of acoustic guitars. The wood is very hard and fine, and is also made into bowls, spoons, and other small items and sold as “myrtlewood”.
Umbellularia californica is also grown as an ornamental tree, both in its native area, and further north up the Pacific coast to Vancouver in Canada, and in western Europe. It is occasionally used for firewood.
According to a modern Miwok recipe for acorn soup, “it is essential that you add a generous amount of California laurel” when storing acorns to dry, to keep insects away from the acorns.[20]
One popular use for the leaves is to put them between the bed mattresses to get rid of, or prevent, flea infestations.

(From Wikipedia on 30.10.14)


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Tree For ID : Lauraceae : California : 19OCT14 : AK-13 : 13 posts by 4 authors. Attachments (5).
Seen in the premises of a school in Fremont on 28th Sept,14. 

Is it Umbellularia californica of Lauraceae?
Medium tree.


Laurus nobilisefi thread


Thanks for the id.


… you both are correct in a way or other!
It is Umbellularia californica (californian bay laurel) often mistaken for and/or adulterated to the Mediterranean or Sweet bay laurel, Laurus nobilis. This plant (U. californica) is used in the same was as L. nobilis but it causes severe headache in some people who are allergic to it. Umbellulone is the compound responsible for this allergic action present in the leaves of U. californica.
Please check this article for more details http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf4052682


Thanks … for alert. I now remember these fruits when we visited Shasta Caverns in 2008. I think I have both. I am uploading both for your validation. I have checked Japson Flora. Both are recorded from California

Attachments (3).

Thanks a lot for the id and additional information.
Since returning, I have been trying to find ids on Google search.
That’s how I had found the id to be Umbellularia californica, Californian Bay Laurel of Lauraceae.
My observation was that the fruits were slightly bigger than those of Laurus nobilis.
Thanks for the correction …


I think the 2nd picture is U. californica. Other two pictures are correctly identified. As you might know, U. californica is native to California, Oregon etc. whereas, L. nobilis is a Mediterranean species and occurs only under cultivation in the USA.

…, I really appreciate your identification of this (and several other) species and also your keen observations. These plants can confuse even trained experts. Great work!
In our paper, we have compared both the species by their chemistry and leaf anatomy.


Thanks a lot for the id and additional information.
Since returning, I have been trying to find ids on Google search.
Thats how I had found the id to be Umbellularia californica, Californian Bay Laurel of Lauraceae.
My observation was that the fruits were slightly bigger than those of Laurus nobilis.
Thanks for the correction


I think the 2nd picture is U. californica. Other two pictures are correctly identified. As you might know, U. californica is native to California, Oregon etc. whereas, L. nobilis is a Mediterranean species and occurs only under cultivation in the USA.

…, I really appreciate your identification of this (and several other) species and also your keen observations. These plants can confuse even trained experts. Great work!
In our paper, we have compared both the species by their chemistry and leaf anatomy.


Really appreciate your kind words for me. I just enjoy observing nature wherever I go.
Time was too short with a family wedding, which was the main purpose of our visit.
All California plants & trees are under my scanner and I could identify quite a few of them.
Will be posting them as time permits.


Nice article … Has it been tried in India to retard the spread of Dengue and Chikungunya?


As I have mentioned earlier, Umbellularia californica is native to California and its adjoining and is not present or grown in India. However, its essential oil can be used in controlling mosquito when it is proved to be safe to use.


I request you to have a relook at the second image. I have cropped fruits portion from original so that you can have a look again. I feel the fruits are too small and too many for Umbellularia californica.


I agree with you. When I was searching the id for my tree, I found single fruit & larger in size in Umbellularia californica, which matched with my pictures.
This is how I had come to the id as being closest to my pictures.


Thanks …. My bad…it is not Umbellularia, but I am pretty sure it is also not Laurus nobilis.
Looking at the fruits, I even doubt if it is a Lauraceae member. I hope you have taken more pictures, also of flowers.


  

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