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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Lauraceae (cinnamon, avocado, stinkwood family)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > magnoliids > Order: Laurales

About 50 genera and 2500 species worldwide (mainly tropics and subtropics), with four genera and 12 species native to southern Africa, three genera and five species that are naturalised, and a further two genera and nine species that are cultivated in the region. The family includes Avocado, Cinnamon, Bay laurel (yielding bay leaves) and Stinkwood.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Jordaan (2000).

Cassytha (False dodder)

Of the total of 17 species, 14 are native to Australia and three to Africa of which two occur in southern Africa. There is also an introduced, naturalised species in southern Africa. Parasitic plants that form a network of entwining, yellow tendrils over shrubs and trees.


About 350 species worldwide (pantropical, mainly Indo-Malayan), with seven species native to southern Africa.


One species: Dahlgrenodendron natalense, native to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.


Ocotea (Stinkwood genus)

About 300 species worldwide (mainly tropical and subtropical America, also Madagascar, Africa and one in the Canary Islands), of which two are native to southern Africa and a further species is cultivated in the region.

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

Cinnamomum (cinnamon, camphor)

About 250 species worldwide (E and SE Asia through to Australia). Two species (cinnamon and camphor) are naturalised in southern Africa and an additional three species are cultivated.


About 400 species worldwide (mainly Asia, also Australia, Pacific Islands, North and South America), of which one, Litsea sebifera, is native to Asia and has been introduced to southern Africa, where it has become naturalised on forest margins in N KwaZulu-Natal. Litsea glutinosa (Indian laurel) is cultivated in southern Africa and is a declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa.


Persea (avocado genus)

About 150 species worldwide (tropics). Two species are cultivated in this region, including the well-known Avocado Persea americana, which has become naturalised in Zimbabwe.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002).

Laurus (bay laurel genus)

Two species, native to the Mediterranean region, Canary Islands and the Azores. Both species are cultivated in southern Africa, including Laurus nobilis, from which we obtain bay leaves, used in seasoning food.


Two species (North America), of which one Umbellularia californica (Californian laurel) is cultivated in southern Africa.



  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated plants of southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Jordaan, M. 2000. Lauraceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 334-336. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.