Are Laurel Leaves Poisonous?

laurel-leaves-poisonous Credit: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Mountain laurel and other laurels of the genus Kalmia have poisonous leaves, as does cherry laurel, a common garden shrub of the genus Prunus. Bay laurel is not closely related to either of these plants and is a source of the bay leaves used in cooking.

Mountain laurel and its close relative sheep laurel are native to the southern United States and are typically found in mountainous areas, open woods and rocky slopes. Sheep, cattle and goals are the usual victims of mountain laurel poisoning, but human cases have occurred. Cherry laurel can be used as a landscaping plant, but care is required when handling its clippings.