Plant of the Month ~~ December 2011
- Common Name(s): Sumac, Laurel Sumac
- Scientific Name: Malosma laurina
- Family: Anacardiaceae, Sumac family
- Plant Type: evergreen shrub
- Size: up to 15 feet high
- Common Habitat: dry slopes in Chaparral and Sage Scrub
Laurel Sumac is very ubiquitous in the Santa Monica Mountains, one of the predominant evergreen shrubs populating the hillsides throughout the year. It grows quickly and strong, forming a rounded shape, but may perish from a cold frost. However, after either frost or a fire, it is quick to resprout leaves and stems from its large underground burl (the photo at lower right is within a year after a fire).
Leaves on this plant are up to 6 inches long, leathery, lanceolate, folded and curved back (kind of like a taco), starting out red then turning to a bright green. Frequently the red color remains in the mature leaf's edges. Stems also start out red, then turn reddish-brown then sometimes gray as the plant matures. Flowering occurs in early summer primarily, with the terminal clusters of small cream-colored flowers quickly giving way to red berries with white seeds. The flower clusters persist on the plant well after the flowers and berries are spent.
The genus name Malosma translates to "apple smell", refering to the aroma of the plant, especially its leaves when crushed. The species name laurina means "laurel-like".
Contributed by Liz Baumann
Curious what was featured in past Plants of the Month? Search the Archives.
References:Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Roadside Plants of Southern California, by Thomas J. Belzer
California Native Plants for the Garden, by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien
California Herbal Remedies, by LoLo Westrich