Laurel, a family of evergreen trees and shrubs. The most notable member is the bay tree of the Mediterranean region. The bay tree grows to 60 feet (18 m) tall, but as commonly cultivated it is much smaller and is often trimmed to a conical or other shape. The glossy, dark-green, oblong leaves, up to four inches (10 cm) long, are dried for use as a flavoring in soups, stews, and other dishes. A crown of laurel was symbolic of victory in ancient Greece and Rome.
A number of other plants are also called laurel, although they do not belong to the laurel family. Mountain laurel is a shrub that grows to 20 feet (6 m) tall in mountain regions in eastern North America. The great laurel is a rhododendron tree that grows to 40 feet (12 m) tall in the same area.
The bay tree is Laurus nobilis of the laurel family, Lauraceae. The mountain laurel and the great laurel belong to the heath family, Ericaceae. Mountain laurel is Kalmia latifolia; great laurel, Rhododendron maximum.