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Portuguese Laurel

Prunus lusitanica

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rosaceae (Rose)
Also in this family:
Acute Leaf-lobed Lady's-mantle, Alpine Cinquefoil, Alpine Lady's-mantle, Ampfield Cotoneaster, Arran Service Tree, Arran Whitebeam, Barren Strawberry, Bastard Agrimony, Bastard Service Tree, Bearberry Cotoneaster, Bird Cherry, Blackthorn, Bloody Whitebeam, Bramble, Bristol Whitebeam, Broad-leaved Whitebeam, Broadtooth Lady's-mantle, Bronze Pirri-pirri-bur, Bullace Plum, Bullate Cotoneaster, Burnet Rose, Catacol Whitebeam, Caucasian Lady's-mantle, Cheddar Whitebeam, Cherry Laurel, Cherry Plum, Chinese Photinia, Cloudberry, Clustered Lady's-mantle, Common Agrimony, Common Hawthorn, Common Lady's-mantle, Common Medlar, Common Ninebark, Common Whitebeam, Crab Apple, Creeping Chinese Bramble, Creeping Cinquefoil, Crimean Lady's-mantle, Cultivated Apple, Cultivated Pear, Cut-leaved Blackberry, Damson, Devon Whitebeam, Dewberry, Diel's Cotoneaster, Dog Rose, Doward Whitebeam, Dropwort, Elm-leaved Bramble, English Whitebeam, Entire-leaved Cotoneaster, False Salmonberry, Field Rose, Firethorn, Fodder Burnet, Fragrant Agrimony, Franchet's Cotoneaster, Garden Lady's-mantle, Garden Strawberry, Giant Meadowsweet, Glaucous Dog Rose, Goatsbeard Spiraea, Gough's Rock Whitebeam, Great Burnet, Greengage Plum, Grey-leaved Whitebeam, Hairless Lady's-mantle, Hairy Lady's-mantle, Hautbois Strawberry, Himalayan Blackberry, Himalayan Cotoneaster, Himalayan Whitebeam, Hoary Cinquefoil, Hollyberry Cotoneaster, Hupeh Rowan, Hybrid Cinquefoil, Hybrid Geum, Irish Whitebeam, Japanese Cherry, Japanese Quince, Japanese Rose, Jew's Mallow, Juneberry, Lancaster Whitebeam, Late Cotoneaster, Least Lady's-mantle, Least Whitebeam, Leigh Woods Whitebeam, Ley's Whitebeam, Liljefor's Whitebeam, Littleleaf Cotoneaster, Llangollen Whitebeam, Llanthony Whitebeam, Lleyn Cotoneaster, Loganberry, Many-flowered Rose, Margaret's Whitebeam, Marsh Cinquefoil, Meadowsweet, Midland Hawthorn, Mougeot's Whitebeam, Mountain Ash, Mountain Avens, Mountain Sibbaldia, Moupin's Cotoneaster, No Parking Whitebeam, Ocean Spray, Orange Whitebeam, Pale Bridewort, Pale Lady's-mantle, Parsley Piert, Pirri-pirri-bur, Plymouth Pear, Purple-flowered Raspberry, Quince, Raspberry, Rock Cinquefoil, Rock Lady's-mantle, Rock Whitebeam, Round-leaved Dog Rose, Round-leaved Whitebeam, Rum Cherry, Russian Cinquefoil, Salad Burnet, Sargent's Rowan, Scannell's Whitebeam, Service Tree, Sharp-toothed Whitebeam, Sherard's Downy Rose, Shining Lady's-mantle, Ship Rock Whitebeam, Short-styled Rose, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Silver Lady's-mantle, Silverweed, Slender Parsley Piert, Slender-spined Bramble, Small-flowered Sweetbriar, Small-leaved Sweetbriar, Soft Downy Rose, Somerset Whitebeam, Sorbaria, Sour Cherry, Southern Downy Rose, Southern Lady's-mantle, Spineless Acaena, Spring Cinquefoil, St. Lucie's Cherry, Steeplebush, Stern's Cotoneaster, Stirton's Whitebeam, Stone Bramble, Sulphur Cinquefoil, Swedish Service Tree, Swedish Whitebeam, Sweet Briar, Symond's Yat Whitebeam, Tengyueh Cotoneaster, Thimbleberry, Thin-leaved Whitebeam, Tibetan Cotoneaster, Tormentil, Trailing Tormentil, Tree Cotoneaster, Trefoil Cinquefoil, Twin-cliffs Whitebeam, Two-spined Acaena, Wall Cotoneaster, Water Avens, Waterer's Cotoneaster, Waxy Lady's-mantle, Welsh Cotoneaster, Welsh Whitebeam, White Burnet, White's Whitebeam, White-stemmed Bramble, Wild Cherry, Wild Pear, Wild Plum, Wild Service Tree, Wild Strawberry, Willmott's Whitebeam, Willow-leaved Bridewort, Willow-leaved Cotoneaster, Wineberry, Wood Avens, Wye Whitebeam, Yellow-flowered Strawberry
Evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
6 metres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, parks, scrub, seaside, towns, wasteland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Small white flowers borne in racemes. Insect-pollinated.
Small cherry-like red fruit, later turning dark purple or black. In fruit from August to October.
Dark green, pointed, toothed, glossy leaves. Pale on the undersides. The leaves alternate along the stems. Leaf stalks are dark red.
The flowers are slightly fragrant.
Other Names:
Portugal Laurel, Spanish Laurel.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Prunus lusitanica, also known as the Portugal laurel, is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to the western Mediterranean region. The tree can grow up to 6m tall and has glossy, dark green leaves that are leathery and glossy. It produces small white flowers in clusters in spring, followed by small black berries in the summer. Portugal laurel is a popular ornamental plant in gardens, parks and landscapes due to its attractive foliage and glossy leaves. It is also commonly used as a hedge plant. The tree is tolerant of a variety of soil types and conditions, and is also tolerant of coastal conditions and pollution, making it suitable for planting in urban areas. The tree is poisonous if ingested, specially the leaves and bark, as it contains cyanide compounds which are dangerous to human and pets.


Portuguese Laurel, also known as Prunus lusitanica, is a versatile evergreen plant that is native to Portugal and Spain. It is widely grown as a hedge, screening plant, or as an ornamental shrub. Its glossy green leaves, fragrant white flowers, and attractive red berries make it a popular choice for gardeners looking to add some color and texture to their landscape.

Description and Characteristics

Portuguese Laurel is a dense, bushy shrub that can grow up to 20 feet tall and wide. It has dark green, glossy leaves that are 2-4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. The leaves are oval-shaped with pointed tips and slightly serrated edges. In the spring and early summer, Portuguese Laurel produces fragrant white flowers in dense clusters. These flowers are followed by red berries that ripen in the fall and persist through the winter.

Portuguese Laurel is an easy plant to grow and care for. It prefers well-draining soil and partial shade to full sun. It is tolerant of drought and can handle moderate amounts of salt spray, making it a good choice for coastal gardens. It is also deer-resistant, making it a good choice for gardens where deer are a problem.


Portuguese Laurel is most commonly used as a hedge or screening plant. It can be planted in rows to create a dense, impenetrable hedge that provides privacy and noise reduction. It is also a good choice for hedging around swimming pools or other areas where there is a lot of foot traffic, as it is tolerant of pruning and can be shaped to fit any space.

Portuguese Laurel can also be used as an ornamental shrub in borders, rock gardens, or as a specimen plant. Its glossy leaves and fragrant flowers make it an attractive addition to any garden.


Portuguese Laurel is a relatively low-maintenance plant. It requires regular watering during the first few years after planting, but once established, it can tolerate periods of drought. It should be fertilized once a year in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer. Portuguese Laurel can be pruned at any time of year, but it is best to prune it in the early spring before new growth begins.

One thing to be aware of when growing Portuguese Laurel is that it is susceptible to a disease called shot hole. Shot hole is a fungal disease that causes small, circular lesions on the leaves. The affected leaves eventually turn yellow and fall off. Shot hole can be prevented by avoiding overhead watering and providing good air circulation around the plant.

Portuguese Laurel is an attractive, versatile shrub that is easy to grow and care for. Its glossy green leaves, fragrant flowers, and red berries make it a popular choice for hedging, screening, or as an ornamental plant. With proper care and maintenance, Portuguese Laurel can provide years of beauty and enjoyment in any garden.

More Information

Portuguese Laurel has been cultivated for centuries for its ornamental value and practical uses. It was used in ancient times for medicinal purposes and its wood was used for making furniture, tool handles, and musical instruments.

In addition to its aesthetic value, Portuguese Laurel has a number of practical uses. It can be used to create windbreaks, to control soil erosion, and to stabilize slopes. Its dense growth habit makes it an excellent plant for noise reduction, and it can also be used to filter air pollution.

Another benefit of Portuguese Laurel is that it provides a habitat for wildlife. The berries are a food source for birds, and the dense foliage provides shelter for a variety of small animals.

There are several cultivars of Portuguese Laurel available, including 'Angustifolia', which has narrow leaves, and 'Myrtifolia', which has small, pointed leaves. These cultivars offer different growth habits and leaf shapes, allowing gardeners to choose the plant that best suits their needs.

Portuguese Laurel is not only a great plant for gardens, but it also has a rich cultural and historical significance. The plant's scientific name, Prunus lusitanica, is a nod to its Portuguese origins. It is often referred to as "Portugal Laurel" or "Spanish Laurel" due to its distribution in both Portugal and Spain.

Portuguese Laurel has also been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries. The leaves and bark of the plant contain compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and digestive issues.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Portuguese Laurel has also been used in cultural and religious celebrations. In Portugal, the plant is often used to decorate churches and homes during Christmas and Easter. The red berries are particularly popular during the Christmas season, where they are used to create festive wreaths and decorations.

Portuguese Laurel is also a popular choice for topiary. Its dense growth habit and ability to withstand heavy pruning make it an ideal plant for shaping into intricate designs. The plant is often used to create geometric shapes, animals, and other whimsical designs.

In terms of sustainability, Portuguese Laurel is a relatively low-maintenance plant that does not require excessive amounts of water or fertilizer. It is also resistant to many pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical interventions. Additionally, the plant's ability to stabilize slopes and control soil erosion makes it a valuable addition to landscaping projects in areas prone to these issues.

In conclusion, Portuguese Laurel is a versatile and culturally significant plant with a variety of uses and benefits. Whether used for its ornamental value, medicinal properties, or practical applications, this plant is a valuable addition to any landscape or garden.


Portuguese Laurel filmed at the following locations:
  • High Close Arboretum, Ambleside, Lake District on the 17th June 2023.
  • Silverdale, Lancashire on the 18th June 2023.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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