- This article is about the Laurus tree. For information on the church hierarch, see Metropolitan Laurus''.
Laurus is a genus of evergreen trees belonging to the Laurel family, Lauraceae. The genus includes three species, whose diagnostic key characters often overlap (Mabberley 1997).
- Laurus azorica (Seub.) Franco, syn. L. canariensis Webb & Berth. Known as Azores Laurel, or by the Portuguese names Louro, Loureiro, Louro-da-terra, and Louro-de-cheiro, is native to the laurisilva forests of the Azores.
- Laurus nobilis L., known commonly as Bay Laurel, True Laurel, Sweet Bay, Grecian Laurel, or simply Laurel, is the source of the spice Bay leaf. It was also the source of the Laurel wreath of ancient Greece. It is distributed across the Mediterranean region from Spain to Greece.
- Laurus novocanariensis Rivas Mart., Lousã, Fern. Prieto, E.Díaz, J.C. Costa & C. Aguiar, formerly included in L.azorica, and also known as the same portuguese names as L. azorica, is native to the laurisilva forests of Madeira Islands and Canary Islands, and also locally in Morocco.
Fossils dating from before the ice ages show that species of Laurus were formerly distributed more widely around the Mediterranean and North Africa, when the climate was more humid and mild than at present. It is currently thought that the drying of the Mediterranean basin during the ice ages caused Laurus to retreat to the mildest climate refuges, including southern Spain, Portugal and the Macaronesian islands. With the end of the last ice age, L. nobilis recovered some of its former range around the Mediterranean.
A recent study found that native stands classified as L. nobilis in northern Spain shared greater genetic and morphological similarity to L. azorica than to populations of L. nobilis native to France and Italy [Arroyo-Garcia et al 2001].
- Arroyo-García, R., Martínez-Zapater, J.M., Fernández Prieto, J.A., & Álvarez-Arbesú R. (2001). AFLP evaluation of genetic similarity among laurel populations. Euphytica 122 (1): 155-164.
- Barbero, M., Benabid, A., Peyre, C. & Quezel, P. (1981). Sur la presence au Maroc de Laurus azorica (Seub.) Franco. Anales Jard. Bot. Madrid 37 (2): 467-472. Available online (pdf file; in French).
- Costa, J. C., Capelo, J., Jardim, R., Sequeira, M., (2004). Catálogo Florístico do Arquipélago da Madeira. Quercetea 6, 187-200.
- Mabberley, D.J (1997). The Plant Book: a Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants. Second edition, pp. 393-394.