Cherry laurel is considered a high impact invasive species in Ireland. It belongs to the Rosaceae family and is native to south eastern Europe and south western Asia. It was introduced into gardens and often used in hedgerows, it has escaped cultivation and naturalized across the country.
Cherry Laurel is sometimes confused with another invasive, Rhododendron.
Classified as a high impact invasive species by the Irish National Biodiversity Centre. Not a Third Schedule listed species under Regulations 49 & 50 in the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.
- Cherry laurel is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 10m tall. It often forms dense thickets.
- Leaves are leathery, dark green, and glossy. The leaves can grow from 5-30cm in length and 4-20cm wide. Leaves also contain cyanide and should not be consumed.
- Cherry laurel flowers in early Summer with cream-white petals and yellow stamens. These flowers grown on erect racemes on woody stems. They have a sweet scent.
- The cherry fruit is borne in early Autumn. It is a small cherry that turns dark black when it ripens. These fruits should not be eaten.
Cherry Laurel is found commonly in woodlands and on roadsides. They prefer to grow in shady areas and in heavy clay soils.
- Cherry laurel spreads locally by suckering from cut stems where the plant will regrow.
- Layering also occurs where when the branches of the tree reach the ground, roots will grow. This is how dense thickets can form.
- Cherry laurel reproduces via seeds. Birds eat the fruits of the Cherry Laurel and their seeds are spread through bird droppings.
Cherry laurel outcompetes native species for space and light as it forms dense thickets. Cherry laurel is also tolerant of drought and shade, a fast grower, and its evergreen leaves make it a hardy species that native plants, especially slow growing deciduous trees, find difficult to compete with. It leaves are not grazed on as they are poisonous so fallen leaves build up on the forest floor. This hinders the growth of native species.
- Mechanical: Mechanical treatment includes cutting the shrub to the base and uprooting the stumps. This is an effective treatment but can be costly.
- Chemical: Cherry laurel can also be treated chemically with herbicide by drilling a hole in the base of the plant and filling the drill holes with herbicide. Smaller, juvenile plants can be foliar sprayed with herbicide. The first treatment occurring in April/May and the second in July/August.
- Many fungal disease and pests can affect Cherry Laurel.
(National Biodiversity Data Centre, Ireland, Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), image, accessed 11 May 2022)