Tree

California Bay

  • Umbellularia californica
  • Lifeform: Tree
  • Fire Resistance: Poor
  • Native: Yes
California Bay
California Bay

California Bay, laurel, Oregon-myrtle, myrtlewood, Pacific-myrtle, spice-tree, pepperwood

Umbellularia californica is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests of California and slightly extended into the state of Oregon. It is endemic to the California Floristic Province. It is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia.

The bay tree, like so many others, will develop differently depending upon the conditions in which it is growing. When found on drier hillsides, it is generally smaller, with yellower leaves and smaller nuts. In a canyon with its roots in plentiful water and rich soil, the leaves will be thinner and darker green and whole tree, nuts and leaves will generally be larger.

Because of its thin bark, the tree is easily top-killed by fire, but it sprouts rapidly. Dense clumps are often formed on cutover land, which may prevent the establishment of desired conifers.

While bays can and do contribute to wildfire hazard, that hazard can often be mitigated through maintenance - by removing shrubs and dead vegetation, fallen limbs, grasses, etc from the base of the tree and beneath its canopy, and removing lower limbs.  This maintenance work mimics what nature would have done, with fire and grazing/browsing by animals, had we not interrupted the natural processes.

In some cases, the shape, structure, health, or location of the tree necessitates its removal.  These factors must be considered also, to help determine whether maintenance or removal are necessary to mitigate any hazard.

Care & Maintenance:

While bays can and do contribute to wildfire hazard due to volatile oil content in leaves and a propensity to buildup leaf litter and deadwood on the ground, that hazard can often be mitigated through maintenance - by removing shrubs and dead vegetation, fallen limbs, grasses, etc from the base of the tree and beneath its canopy, and removing lower limbs.  This maintenance work mimics what nature would have done, with fire and grazing/browsing by animals, had we not interrupted the natural processes.

In some cases, the shape, structure, health, or location of the tree necessitates its removal.  These factors must be considered also, to help determine whether maintenance or removal are necessary to mitigate any hazard.

Learn more about California Bay

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California Bay Umbellularia californica

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