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 upland
red bay is native to the southeastern United
States, including Jacksonville,
where it found in a variety of conditions from dry to moist. The aromatic
leaves have been substituted for bay leaves in cooking.It is similar to the swamp
bay, Persea palustris, which is also
native to north Florida.
One difference between the two species is that the upland red bay has tiny
hairs that lay flat on the underside of the leaf while the swamp red bay has
tiny upright hairs on the lower surface of the leaf. The larvae of palamedes
swallowtails feed on the leaves of the red bays and the closely related
Light: full sun
Water: moderately drought tolerant once established, tolerates moist sites
Soil: a well-drained soil, no other special requirements
The 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 for red bays
appeared 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.