This Mediterranean native grows slowly to 1240 feet tall and wide. Natural habit is compact and broad basedoften that of a multistemmed, gradually tapering cone. Leathery, aromatic leaves are the traditional bay leaves of cookeryoval, 24 inches long, dark green. Clusters of small yellow flowers are followed by - to 1 inches-long, black or dark purple berries.
Dense habit makes it a good large background shrub, screen, or small tree. Takes well to clipping into standards, hedges, or topiary shapes such as globes and cones. A classic formal container plant and longtime favorite in the South. 'Little Ragu' has narrow, golden-green leaves and grows 58 feet tall. 'Saratoga' has broader leaves and a more treelike habit.
Not fussy about soil but needs good drainage. Tends to sucker heavily. In the Upper and Middle South, grow in a container and move to greenhouse or cool, well-lighted room when temperatures reach about 20F; water sparingly until spring.