Persea palustris - Swamp red bay
About one hundred fifty species of Persea are native to warm areas around the world. They are shrubs
and trees. Around the world, the best known species of Persea is avocado, Persea americana. The swamp
red bay is native to the southeastern United States, including Jacksonville, where it
found in swamps and along waterways. It is an evergreen tree. The aromatic
leaves have been substituted for bay leaves in cooking.It is similar to the upland
red bay, Persea borbonia, which is
also native to north Florida. One difference between the two species is that
the swamp red bay has tiny upright hairs on the lower surface of the leaf while
the upland red bay has similar tiny hairs that lay flat against the leaf. The
larvae of palamedes swallowtails feed on the leaves of the red bays and the
closely related sassafras.
See plants in moist, natural areas around campus, such as the Lake Okneida nature trails.
Large tree with the potential to reach seventy feet tall.
Light: full sun to part shade
Water: moist sites
Soil: a moist soil, no other special requirements
The swamp red bay is not commonly cultivated in northeast Florida, possibly
because of its suseptibility to foliage pests. Existing plants in the landscape
can make attractive landscape specimens.
A new problem with red bays
appeared in northeast Florida
recently. Reportedly, a new fungus is causing the sudden deaths of red bays and
sassafras. The fungus is moved from tree to tree by a recently introduced borer
beetle from Asia. The threat of this new
problem is not yet fully understood.