LAUREL (from OF., Fr. Mari( r, Proc., Sp. laurel. from Lat. luurus, laurel), Laurus. A ge nus of Lanni('ea', W1111•11, as now restricted. con tains only a few species, the principal ones being noble laurel. victor's laurel (Laughs nobiiis). and sweet hay ea Hari( nsis ), natives of Asia .Minor. but widely diffused in the _Mediter ranean region, often bushes of 15 feet or less, but sometimes trees I if 30. or even CO feet high. The former has rather large. lanceolate.leathery, shin ing leaves, reticulated with veins, and axillary clusters of yelbiwislowhite flowers of no beauty. The fruit is oval, bluish-black, and about half an inch long. The leaves and the fruit. which anc bitter. astringent, and agreeably aromatic. were formerly much used in medicine as a stom achic and stimulant; but are almost out of use. Tlw 1(h:ices. however, are sometimes used in cook ery for flavoring. They contain a volatile oil (oil of sine/ boy) and a bitter, gummy extractive. By
the ancient Greeks the laurel was called daphne, and was sacred to Apollo. Berry-bearing twigs of it were wound round the foreheads of victori ous heroes and poets; and in later times the degree of doctor was conferred with this cere mony, whence the term laureation. The noble laurel is common in shrubberies. but not nearly so common as the cherry-laurel (q.v.).
Fossil forms of the genus Latin's, and its close allies. Cinnamommu, Sassafras, and Benzoin, have been found abundantly in the Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks of North America and Europe, where they have been recognized by the fossil leaves, flowers, and fruits. It is of interest to note that the fossil species, which resemble closely those modern representatives that grow in warm climates. are found in large numbers in such high northern latitudes as Siberia, Greenland, and Vancouver Island.