Carolina laurelcherry
Prunus caroliniana

Secondary Names:

Leaf Type: Evergreen
Texas Native:
Tree Description:

A small or medium-sized evergreen tree to 40 feet tall and a trunk to 18" in diameter, with a narrow, dense crown of dark green foliage.

Range/Site Description:

Occurs in southeast Texas, westward occasionally to the valley of the Guadalupe River, usually found on rich, moist, well-drained bottomlands. Also planted throughout East Texas as a landscape specimen or tall hedge.


Simple, alternate, 2" to 4" long and 1" to 1.5" wide, elliptical or oblong-lanceolate, shiny and dark green above, paler below; leaf margin smooth or remotely-toothed, with a few tiny sharp teeth; leaves aromatic when crushed.


Short clusters of small white flowers appear in the leaf axils in early spring.


A shiny black drupe, borne in loose clusters, each fruit about 0.5" long, oval-shaped, pointed at the tip, ripening in the fall and persisting until the following spring.


Smooth, dark gray, often marked by dark blotches; older trunks develop rough, black, scaly bark.


Heavy, hard, strong, close-grained, rich brown with a lighter colored sapwood. Sold in commercial nurseries for landscape plantings.

Similar Species:

Black cherry (Prunus serotina var. serotina) has smaller, deciduous leaves with finely-toothed margins; Savannah holly (Ilex x attenuata 'Savannah') has lighter green leaves and bright red berries.

Interesting Facts:

The leaves contain high levels of hydrocyanic (or prussic) acid, making them poisonous or even fatal to browsing livestock, especially after a heavy frost or a drought that withers the leaves and concentrates the poison.

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