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LAUREL, CALIFORNIA

Umbellularia californica


Umbellularia californica of the family Lauraceae (the laurel family)

In the USA, there is some confusion about the names "myrtle" and "laurel" for wood but that is entirely due to this single species. My database shows 207 species that contain the word "laurel" as all or part of one or more of their common names. Then there are 97 species that have the word "myrtle" as all or part of one or more of their common names. Of all of these, there is only a single species that overlaps. that is, there is a single species (at least of the lumber-producing species in my database) that has both "laurel" and "myrtle" in various of its common names, and that is Umbellularia californica. This species is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia and it has many common names with "laurel" and many with "myrtle" but the two most common are Oregon myrtle and California Laurel, with "pepperwood" also seen a fair amount of the time. Since it is in the Lauraceae family (the laurel family), I list it as California laurel but it is also widely sold in the USA as Oregon myrtle or even just myrtle. I have particularly encountered the burl veneer listed as just myrtle burl veneer, not even Oregon myrtle burl veneer and I've seen a lot more bowls and other turned objects listed as Oregon myrtle than I have seen listed as California laurel.

This wood takes on a wide range of colors, due at least somewhat to differing soil conditions in its areas of growth. It can be a greyish tan, green, brown and shades of those.

my samples:
NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting ("soft white" at 2700K)
colors will vary under other lighting conditions


both sides of a sample plank of Oregon myrtle / Umbellularia californica --- HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Oregon myrtle / Umbellularia californica --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE and quartersawn side grain closeup from directly above. The side grain shot was taken just 'cause it is a perfectly quartersawn surface and shows how small the ray flakes are that accompany the very thin rays that are visible in the 2nd enlargement of the end grain update.


both sides of a sample plank of Oregon myrtle / Umbellularia californica --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


sample plank and end grain listed as bay laurel / Umbellularia california (note that the specific epithet should be spelled californica, not california)


end grain and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


both sides of a small piece give to me as just myrtle --- HUGE enlargements are present. Based on the end grain closeup I'm pretty confident that this is Oregon myrtle



end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


face grain closeup of the piece directly above, showing some nice little ray flakes (notice that the piece is almost quartersawn)


a small plank of curly California laurel contributed to the site by Mike Stafford, whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. Mike had this as just "myrtle" which a lot of people do. He also contributed the sample directly below.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


because this piece is almost perfectly quartersawn, the side grain, shown here, is nicely flat cut.


a small plank of curly California laurel contributed to the site by Mike Stafford, whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. Mike had this as just "myrtle" which a lot of people do. He also contributed the sample directly above.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


myrtle veneer / Umbellularia californica --- HUGE enlargements are present. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION D. See the note at the top of the page regarding naming of this species.


burl veneer --- on the first piece, the color is close but not quite right. The actual wood is just slightly more green than what shows up here. Color on the 2nd one is accurate. These were lised as just "myrtle" but I'm sure they are Oregon myrtle


burl veneer sheet and closeup --- color is accurate and although these were listed as just "myrtle" but I'm sure they are Oregon myrtle.


quartermatched and bookmatched veneer sheets of a lightly burled area with a lot of curl. These were listed as just "myrtle" but I'm sure they are Oregon myrtle.


bookmatched burl veneer sheets that were just listed as myrtle but which I am sure are Oregon myrtle


quartermatched burl veneer set listed as just myrtle but I'm sure this is Oregon myrtle


this curly veneer sheet spent some time on the mystery wood page before being identified by Jim Johnson as Oregon myrtle. Thanks, Jim. The color is just a little more olive green than this pic shows.



The Wood Book pics


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
California laurel (Umbellularia californica, also listed as spice tree, bay tree, and pepperwood) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views

web pics:


planks listed as myrtle / Umbellularia californica and with wet and dry areas


plank listed as myrtle / Umbellularia californica


planks listed as Oregon myrtle / Umbellularia californica


slabs, all from the same vendor and all listed as myrtle / Umbellularia californica


slabs listed as Oregon myrtle


plank listed as California laurel


planks listed as Oregon myrtle


plank listed as "black streaked" oregon myrtle


plank listed as pepperwood / oregon myrtle / Umbellularia californica


planks listed as figured Oregon myrtle


pomelle figured planks listed as Oregon myrtle


curly planks listed as Oregon myrtle


fiddleback planks listed as oregon myrtle


waxed turning stock listed as oregon myrtle


plank listed as California myrtle and appears to be a burl (well, a cluster burl at least) although it was not so listed


bookmatched pairs of good-sized burl slabs, all from the same vendor and all listed as just myrtle, but I'm sure these are Oregon myrtle ... HUGE enlargements are present and I encourage you to look at one or two since this is some really beautiful stuff


veneer listed as California laurel


burl veneer listed as myrtle / Umbellularia californica and all from the same vendor --- this is unusually bland and uninteresting California laurel burl veneer


guitar back listed as California bay laurel


instrument fronts and backs all listed as Oregon myrtle. Some of these were also designated as Umbellularia californica but none of them were listed as curly or figured even though most of them clearly are


California laurel guitar --- not listed as figured but clearly it is


guitar back listed as pepperwood / Umbellularia californica --- not listed as figured but clearly it is


boxes listed as Oregon myrtle


platters listed as Oregon myrtle


vases listed as Orgeon myrtle


bowls listed as Oregon myrtle --- bowl turners seem to use that name much more than California laurel.