Laurel Sumac is very ubiquitous in the Santa Monica Mountains, one of the predominant evergreen shrubs populating the hillsides throughout the year. It grows quickly and strong, forming a rounded shape, but may perish from a cold frost. However, after either frost or a fire, it is quick to resprout leaves and stems from its large underground burl (the photo at lower right is within a year after a fire).
Leaves on this plant are up to 6 inches long, leathery, lanceolate, folded and curved back (kind of like a taco), starting out red then turning to a bright green. Frequently the red color remains in the mature leaf's edges. Stems also start out red, then turn reddish-brown then sometimes gray as the plant matures. Flowering occurs in early summer primarily, with the terminal clusters of small cream-colored flowers quickly giving way to red berries with white seeds. The flower clusters persist on the plant well after the flowers and berries are spent.
The genus name Malosma translates to "apple smell", refering to the aroma of the plant, especially its leaves when crushed. The species name laurina means "laurel-like".
Contributed by Liz Baumann