The Bay Tree
Wednesday, 12 December 2018
By Deb Delahunty - Horticulture Teacher, Wodonga TAFE.
The botanical name for the Bay Tree is Laurus nobilis. The genus name comes from the Latin ‘laurus’ which means to praise. The species name nobilis is one I’ve heard mispronounced many times, the species name is pronounced no-bill-iss – meaning ‘noble’ and not nob-ill-iss.
Photo – a row of Bay Trees in a garden bed at Wodonga TAFE. These plants will be shaped into a hedge over the next few years.
The Bay Tree will grow into a large shrub or a small to medium tree, but it’s so easy to keep it pruned into a hedge or contained to a couple of metres tall. The Bay Tree isn’t this plants only common name, it’s also known as the Sweet Bay, Laurel Tree and the True Laurel. This plant is has aromatic leaves that are used in food seasoning. When you think of Laurus nobilis you should think of the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks made wreathes from the leaves of the Bay Tree and these were a symbol of high status.
The Laurel (remember this is another common name for Laurus nobilis) was a symbol of victory and being victorious. The Bay Tree is part of the national emblem of Greece, the whole emblem being a blue escutcheon with a white cross surrounded by two laurel branches.
The Bay Tree grows well in areas that have Mediterranean climates. This tree grows in sunny locations but also does well in part shade. The Laurus nobilis doesn’t like wet feet so it’s important that the position is well-drained. Even in the best position this tree isn’t a fast grower and this makes it a perfect candidate for shaping into topiary and using as hedging. It makes a great ornamental container plant and will grow inside as long as it receives plenty of bright light.
If you grow the Bay Tree you may as well know how to use it in the kitchen, it’s very popular in Mediterranean dishes. You can harvest the leaves at any time of the year and they can be used fresh or dried. The leaves are usually added to pasta dishes and used in stews. If you use whole leaves they are usually removed before serving.
There are numerous old-time medicinal uses for Bay leaves, from the relief of flatulence to soothing rashes caused by stinging nettles. One use is to put a few leaves in a muslin bag and pop it in the pantry to repel flour weevils, I’ve never tried this myself but I do use Bay in cooking. This is a useful plant that grows well in our region.
Diary – The Agriculture/Horticulture Department at Wodonga TAFE has numerous short courses available in 2019. Short courses include the AgVet Chemical Users Course, chainsaw training, quad bike training, pruning and plant propagation. For more information on short course contact 1300 MY TAFE (1300 698 233) or email firstname.lastname@example.org .