Redbay, Persea borbonia, is a shrub or medium understory tree that is evergreen in some areas and semi evergreen in others. It can tolerate high heat and medium amounts of rainfall. It grows well in southeast Texas along the streams and in the woods where it will form a dense crown.
Blooms and Leaves:
Redbay can grow up to 65 feet but commonly grow up to 25 feet. They can also have a canopy of 25 feet. It has leaves that are evergreen and shaped like a lance. These lance-shaped leaves are dark green on top and pale green on bottom, they are usually 3 – 7 inches in length and 1-2 inches in width. If these leaves are crushed they are fragrant. The bark of these shrubs or medium sized trees is a reddish brown, very thick and has irregular furrows and ridges with flat tops. Ascending branches of the Redbay are covered with thick, rust colored pubescence or tiny hairs and leaves.
Redbay has creamy white to light yellow flowers that are small and form in clusters in the leaf axils. They will bloom during the spring and summer of the month. After Redbay has finished blooming in the summer, it will then grow dark-blue to almost black fruit that are up to ½ an inch in size and mature sometime during the early fall of the year.
Caring for Redbay includes the proper sunlight, soil and water. The proper sunlight for Redbay to grow properly ranges from full sunlight to partial shade. Full shade is the only light tolerance it has. Soil tolerances are any that are well-drained or occasionally wet. This includes sand, clay, loam and it can be either alkaline or acidic. Redbay has a high tolerance for drought conditions and a high aerosol salt tolerance.
Propagation of Redbay is by the seeds that are dropped the fall previously. These seeds will germinate after they have been in the ground for several months.
Redbay has several uses. Its wood can be harvested for fine cabinet work and for beautiful lumber. The leaves have been used for flavoring in soups and meats for many years. The fruit is bitter, but birds like it just fine. It is also important in protection for endangered butterflies such as Palmedes, Schaus and Spicebush swallowtails as host plants for their caterpillars.
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center