Bay Welcome

Laurus nobilis, Bay Laurel. Photo credit: H. Zell CC via Wikimedia Commons.
Bay tree, Laurus nobilis. © Karen Andrews

The Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis, is frequently seen as an outdoor Christmas tree. You may find it either trimmed into a Christmas tree pyramid shape or in a lollipop-shape tied with a large Christmassy red bow. Sometimes you may see a lollipop or trimmed ball on a long spiral stem. Bay originates from the Mediterranean but seems to tolerate our colder winters further north. Potted ornamental Bays are promoted to provide an elegant, low-maintenance welcome at the front door of grander houses. There seems to be a modern fashion to place a moderately decorated Bay tree on either side of a front door to welcome Christmas visitors.

Victory Symbol

Of course, Bay is no newcomer. It has a long history and mythology. A laurel wreath was a symbol of honour and victory. Winners in the original Greek Olympic Games were given laurel wreaths rather than today’s gold medals. Other honours such as the role of Poet Laureate are inspired by this practice.


Daphne pursued by Apollo is changed into a Laurel tree by her father, the river god Peneus. Public Domain. CC Author/creator Goltzius, Hendrik (1558-1617) via Universiteit Leiden Digital Collections.

In Greek mythology, Apollo offended Eros by mocking his archery skills. His response was to shoot two arrows. The first hit Apollo and left him smitten with Daphne, daughter of the river god Peneus. The second arrow hit Daphne who loathed romance. After tiring of running away from the insatiably amorous Apollo, Daphne appealed to her father to protect her. Peneus turned her into a Bay tree. Thereafter, Apollo adorned himself with Laurel leaves.

Culinary Use

Bay leaves are used in stews, soups and sauces to add flavour. They are added whole or as a key component of a bouquet garni. Generally, the leaves or bouquet garni are removed before serving. So a Christmas decoration becomes a kitchen garden by the front door.

© Karen Andrews

References and Further Reading

  • Bacon, Josephine et al. (2017): The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, & Herbs. Chartwell Books, London.
  • Davidson, Alan (2006): The Oxford Companion to Food. Second Edition. Ed. Tom Jaine. Oxford University Press.
  • van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2005): Food plants of the World. An illustrated guide. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon, USA.


Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

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