Laurel Family (Lauraceae)
Characteristics Of The Lauraceae
The flowers of most species in this family are small, yellow, and aromatic. Some species have bisexual flowers containing both male and female organs. Some species have unisexual flowers, with each flower having either male organs or female organs. Some species are polygamous, in that individuals have some flowers which are bisexual, and others that are unisexual.
The flowers of most species have six sepals, arranged in two cycles. Sepals are the outermost whorl of a flower, typically leaf-like in appearance. The stamens, or male organs, of laurel flowers occur in three or four cycles, with three stamens in each. The flowers usually have a single pistil, or female organ, which contains a single ovule that develops into a seed after fertilization. The fruit of most species is aromatic, and is classified as a drupe, in that is has a fleshy outer layer and a hard inner layer with a single seed.
The leaves, stems, and roots of most species in the laurel family are aromatic. The leaves are typically alternate, rather than opposite, to one another on the stem. The leaves are simple in that they consist of a single blade. The California laurel (Umbellularia californica) and most tropical species in the Lauraceae have persistent leaves, which remain attached to the plant after they are no longer functional. Other species such as sassafras (Sassafras albidum) and spice bush (Lindera benzoin) have seasonally deciduous leaves, which fall off in the autumn, after they become nonfunctional.