Prunus caroliniana Aiton
  • ALTERNATE COMMON NAME: Carolina laurelcherry
  • LEAVES: simple, alternate, persistent; blades elliptic, ca. 3” long; margins often have spiny teeth, but teeth may be lacking; leaves aromatic when crushed, smell similar to Dr. Pepper
  • FLOWER: perfect, in axillary racemes to ca. 1.5” long; petal 5, stamens 10-15, flowers ca. 0.3” across; flowering in early spring
  • FRUIT: dark blue-black drupe, ca. 0.5” in diameter; drupes from the previous year often persist into the next
  • TWIGS: slender, red to grayish-brown, with scattered horizontally elongate lenticels
  • BARK: smooth and dark gray to greenish
  • FORM: evergreen shrub or small tree to 40’ x 1.5’ dbh
  • HABITAT: mesic, well-drained forests, such as mesic flatwoods, hardwood slope forest, southern mesophytic forest, salt dome hardwood forest; this species is cultivated and is prone to escape, many populations may have been established in that way
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative Upland (FACU): Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains  [USGS Range Map]  [MAP]
  • USES: often-used ornamental, privacy hedges
  • WILDLIFE: commonly browsed by deer and provides forage during winter; fruits eaten by birds
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. lustrous green leaves, often with spiny teeth
    2. Dr. Pepper-like odor of crushed leaves
    3. persistent dark blue-black drupes

    NOTE – wilted foliage contains hydrocyanic acid, toxic to cattle and most other mammals; do not consume any leaves, wilted or fresh!