Laurel sumac is a large rounded evergreen shrub
or small tree growing 10' to 15' tall that is glabrous and aromatic
with reddish leaf veins, petioles and stems. The leaves are simple,
alternate, lance-oblong, entire-margined, somewhat leathery and folded
along the midrib, and with a mucronate tip. The leaf blades are
up to 4" long and the petioles are about 1-1/4" long. The
bisexual or unisexual flowers are in fairly dense, intricately branched,
terminal paniculate inflorescences which dry out and remain on the tree
long after the flowers are gone. The flowers have green five-lobed
sepals and five white petals. The fruit is a whitish, glabrous
drupe 1/8" in diameter with a smooth flattish stone. Laurel
sumac is commonly found on dry ridges and canyons below 3000' in chaparral
and coastal sage scrub, on cismontane slopes and inland to the desert
edge. Very susceptible to frost, it is often planted by citrus
growers as a frost indicator. I have also been told that the dried
out floral remains are utilized by train set builders as model trees.
Munz's Flora records this species as Rhus laurina,
but the Jepson Manual has placed it in a genus of its own. It
blooms from June to July.
Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Malosma
Pronunciation: mal-OS-ma law-RI-na.
Click here for Botanical