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Laurel Family (Lauraceae)

Characteristics Of The Lauraceae, Important Species

The laurels are a family of flowering plants known to botanists as the Lauraceae. Lauraceae contains about 45 genera and 2,000 species, and is the most diverse family in the order Laurales. Most species grow in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Central and South America.

The best known species is Laurus nobilis, a Mediterranean shrub used by the ancient Greeks to decorate the head of victors in the Pythian games, which led to modern phrases such as "poet laureate" and "Nobel laureate." Additional well-known species include avocado, California laurel, sassafras, and cinnamon tree. American gardeners often refer to Kalmia latifolia as "mountain laurel," and to Rhododendron maximum as "great laurel," despite the fact that both of these shrubs are in the Ericaceae family, and are unrelated to the "true" laurels of the Lauraceae.

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