What Is Pepperwood?

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The California laurel or pepperwood is a perennial evergreen tree native to southern Oregon and California. The volatile oils found within its leaves have been used for medicinal purposes, and its dense foliage makes it an attractive tree for landscaping. While this tree may not be the most well-known, its features make it an important part of the West Coast environment.

Hardiness Zones

  • The pepperwood tree's hardiness zones are located from U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 7b through USDA Zone 10b, which means the tree may tolerate an average winter temperature ranging from 5 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Height and Width

  • The pepperwood tree can grow to between 40 and 80 feet tall and, when planted in ideal conditions, can reach a width of 30 to 40 feet. The pepperwood requires full sun and regular watering; however, if watered too much, the tree may become waterlogged, which makes it susceptible to fungi development.

Foliage

  • The foliage of the pepperwood is oval to oblong in shape and grows 3 to 5 inches long. Since this is an evergreen tree, the leaves feature a shiny or glossy appearance. The leaves contain a high concentration of volatile oil --- 7.5 percent per leaf. You may test this concentration by crushing the leaves and smelling the strong aroma. Throughout history, the leaves of the pepperwood have been infused as a tea to treat stomachaches, sore throats, colds and mucus buildup in the lungs. Other medicinal uses include head lice removal and baths with steeped leaves for rheumatic patients. In addition, the branches are placed in yards to discourage fleas and ticks.

Fruit

  • The fruit of the pepperwood tree is shaped like an olive and is green in color when it emerges; however, once the fruit matures, it takes on a purple color. The fruit, or nuts, of the tree are edible; however, they require roasting in a 450-degree oven for at least 20 minutes to remove their volatile oils. The fruit is composed of 40 percent to 60 percent fat, which makes it similar to cocoa butter. If you grind the fruit until it becomes a paste and then add a small amount of powdered sugar, the result is strikingly similar to chocolate.

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