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1 Town (1990 pop. 19,438), Prince Georges co., central Md., about halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore; patented in the late 1600s, inc. 1870. Primarily residential, Laurel has light manufacturing. The Washington, D.C., Children's Center and Laurel Race Course (opened 1911) are there. In the area are the Patuxent Research Refuge, a large Fish and Wildlife Service research installation; Fort George G. Meade (est. 1917), with the National Security Agency; and the National Cryptologic Museum.

2 City (1990 pop. 18,827), seat of Jones co., SE Miss., on Tallahala Creek; inc. 1892. Industries center around petroleum and lumber production and meat and poultry processing. Cotton and corn are raised and there is dairying. Manufactures include automotive parts, wood products, apparel, chemicals, furniture, machinery, and electrical equipment. The city was founded as the site of a sawmill in 1882. Oil was discovered in the vicinity in 1944. Southeastern Baptist College is in Laurel.


common name for the Lauraceae, a family of forest trees and shrubs found mainly in tropical SE Asia but also abundant in tropical America. Most have aromatic bark and foliage and are evergreen; deciduous species are usually those that extend into temperate zones. The plants are important for aromatic oils and spices, edible fruits, and timber (e.g., from species of the largest genus, Ocotea). The true laurel—that of history and classical literature—is Laurus nobilis, called also bay and sweet bay. It is native to the Mediterranean, where to the ancients it symbolized victory and merit and was sacred to Apollo. The fragrant leaves are sold commercially as bay leaf, a seasoning. Many plants of the unrelated heathheath,
in botany, common name for some members of the Ericaceae, a family of chiefly evergreen shrubs with berry or capsule fruits. Plants of the heath family form the characteristic vegetation of many regions with acid soils, particularly the moors, swamps, and mountain slopes
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 family are also called laurels in the United States because of their similarly dark and glossy but poisonous leaves; the cherry laurel is a species of the roserose,
common name for some members of the Rosaceae, a large family of herbs, shrubs, and trees distributed over most of the earth, and for plants of the genus Rosa, the true roses.
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 family. A native American laurel is the evergreen California laurel (Umbellularia californica), also called pepperwood, bay-tree, and Oregon myrtle. It grows in California and Oregon and provides wood, medicinal leaves, and fruits that were eaten by Native Americans. Lindera benzoin, commonly called spicebush, benzoin, or wild allspice, is another fragrant species found in America; its powdered berries have been used as a substitute for allspice. All other Lindera species are Asian. The red bay (Persea borbonia) of the southeast coastal plains has very strong, bright reddish-brown heartwood used in cabinetmaking and interior finishing. P. americana, the alligator pear, or avocado (from Sp. aguacate), has been cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala for millennia; it is now grown extensively in Florida and California and many parts of the moister tropics and subtropics for its nutritious oil-rich fruit and is used chiefly in salads. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), a tree or shrub, was one of the first American plants to command the attention of European settlers, who exported it to the Old World as a high-priced panacea. Its aromatic bark is still occasionally used for medicinal tea, and its pulverized leaves for soup and condiments. Safrole, used in flavorings and medicinals, is obtained from oil of sassafras as well as from the camphor tree. The camphor tree, the cassia-bark tree, and the cinnamon tree all belong to the Asian genus Cinnamomum and are extensively cultivated for their aromatic bark (see cinnamoncinnamon,
name for trees and shrubs of the genus Cinnamomum of the family Lauraceae (laurel family). True cinnamon spice comes from the Ceylon or Sri Lanka cinnamon (C. verum or C. zeylanicum), now cultivated in several tropical regions.
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 and camphorcamphor
, C10H16O, white, crystalline solid ketone with a characteristic pungent odor and taste. It melts at 176°C; and boils at 204°C;. The natural variety, Japan camphor, is obtained by steam distillation of the wood of the camphor tree (
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). Many of the evergreen laurels are grown as hedges and, because of their handsome foliage, are used by florists. The laurel family is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Laurales.
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Seasonal decorations of greenery have embellished European Christmas celebrations for centuries. Laurel's association with the season can be traced back even further, however. The Romans celebrated their new year festival, Kalends, by adorning their homes and temples with evergreen branches. Both the Greeks and the Romans crowned the victors of their athletic and other contests with wreaths of laurel, since the laurel branch served as a symbol of victory. In later times northern Europeans gathered laurel, or bay, for their Christmas garlands. In the seventeenth century the English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) noted that, according to local custom, "Rosemary and baies [bays] that are most faire were stuck about the houses and the churches as Christmas decorations." Christian authorities explained this use of laurel with reference to its ancient association with victory, declaring that when used in Christmas trimmings the fragrant leaves represented the triumph of Jesus Christ.

Further Reading

Crippen, Thomas G. Christmas and Christmas Lore. 1923. Reprint. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1990.
Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, 2nd ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2003


symbol of unmarried scholar; whence, baccalaureate. [Flower Symbolism: Emboden, 25]


traditional emblem of peace. [Plant Symbolism: Jobes, 374]
See: Peace
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any lauraceous tree of the genus Laurus, such as the bay tree (see bay4) and L. canariensis, of the Canary Islands and Azores
2. any lauraceous plant
4. spurge laurel a European thymelaeaceous evergreen shrub, Daphne laureola, with glossy leaves and small green flowers
5. spotted or Japan laurel an evergreen cornaceous shrub, Aucuba japonica, of S and SE Asia, the female of which has yellow-spotted leaves
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005