Group of about 150 species of trees and large shrubs grown chiefly for their handsome evergreen foliage. Related to avocado (Persea americana) and camphor tree (Cinnamomum). None is very common, but all are well worth seeking out.
P. borbonia. RED BAY. Tree. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native to swamps from Delaware to Florida. Grows 2040 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide, with a dense crown of aromatic, shiny, dark green leaves to 6 in. long and 2 in. wide. Often multitrunked and shrubby. Creamy flowers in May or June are inconspicuous. Small, dark blue to black fruit appears in early fall, borne on attractive red stalks. Needs regular to ample water; tolerates very wet soil and salt spray. Full sun or light shade.
P. humilis. SILK BAY. Shrub or small tree. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-10. Native to Florida scrub. Handsome plant to 10 ft. tall, 610 ft. wide. Leaves are shiny green above and covered with silky, chestnut brown hairs beneath; they grow 13 in. long and 12114 in. wide. When crushed, foliage smells like that of culinary bay (Laurus nobilis). Small, yellowish spring flowers are followed by small purplish black fruit in fall. Very drought tolerant; needs good drainage and full sun.
P. thunbergii. JAPANESE PERSEA. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Tree. Native to Japan, China, Korea. Fast grower to 6080 ft. tall, 4060 ft. wide. Thick, glossy leaves are deep green above, paler beneath, to 6 in. long and 212 in. wide. Tiny, yellowish spring flowers; blackish purple fruit in summer. A nice lawn, shade, or street tree. Provide regular water and full sun.