Persea borbonia

Florida Mahogany, Laurel Tree, Red Bay, Swamp Bay, Sweet Bay, Tisswood

  • Persea borbonia

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Min. hardiness zone:
Item ID:

Growing Info

Scarification: Soak in water, let stand in water for 24 hours
Stratification: cold stratify for 120 days
Germination: sow seed 3/8" deep, tamp the soil, mulch the seed bed

Other: can be fall sown without stratification. 

Persea borbonia, also known as Florida Mahogany, Laurel Tree, Red Bay, Swamp Bay, Sweet Bay, and Tisswood, is an evergreen tree native to the Southeastern United States. It belongs to the Lauraceae family and is one of about 150 species in the Persea genus. This versatile tree can exist as both a small tree and a large shrub, with lance-shaped leaves that emit a spicy smell when crushed. The leaves range in color from bright green to dark green, adding beauty to any landscape. Persea borbonia produces small, blue or black drupe fruit.

Redbay is known for its hard, heavy, close-grained wood, making it suitable for interior uses such as cabinets. However, trees with large straight trunks are not common enough to be of commercial interest. Additionally, the fresh or dried leaves of Persea borbonia can be used as a flavorful addition to soups and other dishes.

This evergreen tree thrives in moist, acidic soil and can tolerate full sun or part shade. It is native to swamps but also adapts well to drier conditions, making it a versatile landscape tree. Persea borbonia is salt tolerant and can be found from Delaware to Florida. It is a perennial species with lignified stems and inconspicuous creamy flowers.

Persea borbonia serves as an important food source for wildlife. Deer and bears consume the leaves and fruit, while birds and turkeys feed solely on the fruit. The tree also provides essential habitat for gray squirrels in certain environments.

Unfortunately, redbay is facing challenges due to the invasion of the redbay ambrosia beetle, which carries a laurel wilt fungal disease responsible for killing redbays. This beetle was first discovered in 2002 and is slowly causing the decline of the species. However, foresters believe that Persea borbonia will not go extinct in the southeastern U.S., as it has shown the ability to rejuvenate to some degree on its own.

Culturally, Persea borbonia has historical significance as the Seminole Indians used it as an emetic to induce vomiting. Today, the dried leaves can be used as an alternative to tropical bay spice for cooking.

Overall, Persea borbonia is a resilient and beautiful evergreen tree with a variety of uses, making it an excellent choice for gardens, parks, and natural landscapes. It adds beauty to any space while also providing valuable resources for wildlife.

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