This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Shrubs or trees with 1-nerved alternate leaves and fascicled sessile sub-dicecious flowers. Perianth 4- to 6-lobed. Stamens 12, all fertile; anthers opening upwards by 2 valves. Fruit a succulent berry surrounded by the persistent base of the perianth. Only two species are retained under this genus by some authors. The Latin name of the European species.
1. L. nobilis. Sweet Bay, Laurel of the Ancients. - This aromatic fragrant evergreen shrub has oblong-lanceolate acute venose leaves and axillary clusters of yellowish flowers in early Spring. It is a native of the extreme South of Europe. There is a closely allied half-hardy species from the Canaries.
L. Sassafras, syn. Sassafras officinale, is a hardy deciduous tree of small stature from North America. It has deeply furrowed rough aromatic bark, yellowish green twigs, ovate entire or trilobate leaves, greenish yellow dioecious flowers in clustered racemose panicles, appearing with the leaves. The anthers are 4-valved, and this with other characters has been considered sufficient to separate it from Laurus.
L. Benzoin, syn. Benzoin odoriferum, is a deciduous North American shrub with oblong-ovate leaves and clustered umbellate flowers appearing before the leaves. It is rarely seen in gardens.