American Cherry Laurel
Herb: American Cherry Laurel
Latin name: Prunus caroliniana
Synonyms: Laurocerasus caroliniana
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Medicinal use of American Cherry Laurel:Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Deep, well-drained rich moist bottomlands, bluffs or streambanks.
Edible parts of American Cherry Laurel:The fruit might be edible. It has a thick skin and a thin dry flesh and is not edible. It is slightly toxic to humans. The fruit is about 13mm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.
Other uses of the herb:Amenable to trimming, this plant can be grown as a screen and hedge. It can also be used in shelterbelt plantings. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. Wood - hard, heavy, strong, close grained. The trees are seldom large enough for the wood to be exploited commercially.
Propagation of American Cherry Laurel:Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring.
Cultivation of the herb:Deep, well-drained rich moist bottomlands, bluffs or streambanks.
Known hazards of Prunus caroliniana:The leaves and young branches of this species contain considerable quantities of hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.