Sassafras Cinnamon Avocado and Bay the Laurel Family

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The Laurel family includes about 55 genera and about 4,000 species. The plants from this family may be found anywhere from mountainous areas to the subtropics.  This family includes the plants of sassafras, cinnamon, avocado and bay.


The sassafras is a deciduous tree and is native to the eastern North America and eastern Asia. The trees can grow up to 59 feet tall with trunks that can be as big as 59 inches in diameter. The bark of this tree is orange-brown in color and it has a smooth texture.

This is an aromatic tree, with each part of it sharing in the aroma. In the spring the sassafras produce small, yellow flowers with have five petals. There are male and female flowers produced on separate trees. The fruit, itself is blue-black in color and is oval shaped. They appear on long red cups and are ripe in late summer. Sassafras thrives in areas of high rainfall and high humidity, even though they are deciduous.

There are several species with in the sassafras genus including: Sassafras albidum; Sassafras Hesperia; Sassafras tzumu; Sassafras randaiense


The cinnamon tree is from the genus Cinnamomum which is native to South East Asia. The cinnamon tree is grown for two years, then coppiced, or cut back. The following year several shoots will grow from the roots.

The branches provide the spice that is used around the world. This is done by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. This inner bark is then worked out in long rolls. The inner bark is only about 0.020 inches thick. These rolls are then dried and then cut into two to four inch lengths.

Sri Lanka has been the source of cinnamon since times past. There are also commercial groves in southern India, Bangladesh, Java, Sumatra, the West Indies, Brazil, Vietnam, Madagascar, Zanzibar and Egypt.

The species within the genus are Cinnamomum verum, Sri Lanka or Ceylon cinnamon; Cinnamomum burmannii, Korintje or Indonesian cinnamon; Cinnamomum loureiroi, Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon; Cinnamomum aromaticum, Cassia or Chinese cinnamon)


The avocado tree is native to Central Mexico. Avocado is also referred to as alligator pear. The fruit of the trees have a green skin are pear shaped with a flesh texture to the body which becomes ripe after the fruit is harvested. This is a partially self-pollinating tree and quite often is grafted to insure quality and quantity upon harvest.

The trees can grow up to 69 feet tall with flowers that are greenish-yellow. The flowers are fairly inconspicuous as they are only about 0.2 inches to 0.4 inches in width.

The avocado grows best in a subtropical climate that does not have frost or much wind. If an area has winds the climate dries out and the flower dehydrate, which will decrease the chance of pollination. Frost may cause the fruit to fall from the trees prematurely.

Pollination will vary depending of the flowering type of tree; the “A” cultivar includes Hass, Gwen, Lamb Hass, Pinkerton and Reed. This cultivar’s flowers open as female on the first day in the morning and then close in the late morning or early afternoon. Then will open as a male in the afternoon on the following day.

The “B” cultivar includes Fuerte, Sharwil, Zutano, Bacon, Ettinger, Sir Prize and Walter Hole. One the afternoon of the first day they open as female, then in late afternoon they close. The next morning they open as male.

Bay leaf

The bay leaf is the part of the bay laurel that produces the aroma. There are other plants that may have the name bay leaf including the California bay leaf which has a stronger flavor than the Mediterranean bay; Indian bay; Indonesian bay leaf is a member of the Myrtaceae family along with the Indian bay.

This tree has been cultivated for millennia. Originally it came from Asia Minor then spread to other areas such as the Mediterranean. The bay laurel does not grow well in cold areas.

Each of these members of the Laurel family are used in cooking and each has it own aromatic qualities which make them popular in the world today.

More about this author: Kimberly Napier

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