Malosma laurina (Nutt.) Abrams

Laurel Sumac
Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)


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 2) laurina.
Pronunciation: mal-OS-ma law-RI-na.
Click here for Botanical Term Meanings.