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Plant Profile: Silk Bay (Persea humulis)

Persea humulis2Silk bay is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to peninsular Florida where it grows in sandy low woods, and margins of swamps and ponds. It is a member of the laurel family, Lauraceae, that also includes bay, avocado, sassafras, and cinnamon, and is sometimes listed as Persea borbonia var. humulis. The bark is reddish-brown and smooth when young but develops furrows and ridges with age. Narrowly elliptical to lance-shaped leaves are one to three inches long and occur in clusters towards the tips of the stems. They have shiny green tops with a dense covering of silky rusty-red hairs beneath and have a fragrance like bay laurel when crushed. Small, greenish-yellow flowers are produced in the leaf axils in spring and produce berry-like blue-black fruit. Silk bay is probably a host plant for palamedes swallowtail and spicebush swallowtail butterflies.

Type: Evergreen shrub or small tree

Outstanding Feature: Foliage

Form: Oval

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Small, greenish-yellow flowers in the leaf axils in spring

Size: 20-30’ H x 10-20’ W

Light: Sun; tolerates some shade

Soil: Lean, dry, well-rained

Hardiness: Zones 8-10

Care: Remove dead or damaged twigs in the spring.

Pests and Diseases: Twig borer, galls, scale, aphid, fungal leaf spot, ermine moth, laural wilt,

Propagation: Seed