The silvics of Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng., red bay, and Persea palustris (Raf.) Sarg., swamp bay, Lauraceae (Laurel family)
Red bay [Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng.] and swamp bay [Persea palustris (Raf.) Sarg.] are aromatic, broadleaved, evergreen tree species native to the southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain of the United States. Confusion exists over whether red bay and swamp bay should be considered separate species; nonetheless, certain physical and chemical characteristics, as well as associated flora and soils, are commonly used to distinguish the species. Both species flower in late spring and produce dark blue drupes in the fall. They are highly tolerant of shade, commonly occurring as understory trees with irregularly shaped stems, but also grow well in full sun. Hundreds of thousands of red bay and swamp bay trees have been killed by laurel wilt, a vascular disease caused by a nonnative insect/pathogen complex. In infected stands, laurel wilt disproportionately kills the largest red bay and swamp bay trees, usually eliminating all but the smallest diameter stems and sprouts. Although it is not a major timber species, red bay and swamp bay are rich in essential oils and have been used for numerous culinary, cultural, and medicinal purposes.