The Persea Borbonia
is commonly known as Redbay
, as well as Swampbay< Go Back
Redbay grows on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains and in peninsular
Florida. Its range extends from southern Deleware to southern Texas.
It also grows in the Bahamas [5
]. It is cultivated in Hawaii
The currently accepted scientific name for redbay is Persea borbonia
(L.) Spreng. (Lauraceae). Morphological variety complicates redbay
taxonomy. Three varieties, also regarded as separate species, are
distinguished based on habitat differences and the morphology of the
hair on the undersides of the leaves:
P. b. var. borbonia - typical variety
P. b. var. humilis (Nash) Kopp [P. humulis Nash] - commonly known as
silkbay; distinguished from the typical variety by especially dense hair
]; restricted to the oak (Quercus spp.)-pine (Pinus spp.) scrub of
peninsular Florida [4
P. b. var. pubescens (Pursh) Little [P. palustris (Raf.) Sarg.] - commonly
known as swampbay; distinguished from the type by crooked hair [13
an affinity for swampy areas [12
This review follows Little [29
] and Kartesz and Kartesz [22
] who favor
three varieties. There are no recognized subspecies or forms.
Redbay is common in pocosins [10,30], forested wetlands , mixed
hardwood swamps [38,40], and Mississippi pitcher-plant (Sarrecenia spp.)
bogs . In the drier Big Thicket area of eastern Texas, it sometimes
grows on upland longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) savannas [6,33] and
poorly drained sites where mesic vegetation form localized patches in a
more xeric landscape . Redbay is a principal associate in the
Okefenokee Swamp , a dominant in Cumberland Island understories ,
and common in the Great Dismal Swamp  and Big Cypress Swamp .
Red bay dominates many everglades tree islands [30,40] and cypress dome
 understories. It is occasional in the understories of high
hammocks  but a major component in low hammocks. When seen from the
air, southern Florida low hammocks have a characteristic
redbay-dominated tail which extends downstream in the direction of the
everglade's flow . Some southern Florida tree islands are so
dominated by redbay, sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and loblolly-bay
(Gordonia lasianthus) that they are known as "bayheads" .
Overstory associates include red maple (Acer rubrum) , cabbage
palmetto (Sabel palmetto) , spruce pine (Pinus glabra) , slash
pine (P. elliottii) , loblolly pine (P. taeda) , sand pine (P.
clausa) , southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola), loblolly-bay,
cassena (Ilex cassine), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora) , sweetbay, and
Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) .
Understory associates include hurrahbush (Lyonia lucida), swamp
fetterbush (Leucothoe racemosa), sweetspire (Itea virginica), poor-man's
soap (Clethra alnifolia), coral greenbriar (Smilax Walteri), and wax
myrtle (Myrica cerifera) [8,23].
Wells  cited redbay as a dominant in his classification system of
Coastal Plain community types.
< Go Back
Much of the information presented here is attributed to:
Van Deelen, Timothy R. 1991. Persea borbonia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available at USDA Forest Service.