I have some well established Laurel nobilis (sweet bay, bay laurel, "Grecian laurel" and the leaves can vary considerably in size and shape.
California bay has a resinous, kerosene-like flavor and can be toxic i "excess" if one has liver or kidney disease the "excess" is not great...
MOUNTAIN LAUREL - mostly found in the mountains in eastern America and also in the Pacific northwest, is highly toxic - all parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals - even goats, which don't seem to be bothered by foliage that would kill other animals.
Growing up in western Kentucky, where there were a lot of these bushes, we kids were warned not to pick and eat the red berries.
I never get to see the berries on my bushes because the birds love them. The flowers on true Laurel nobilis are tiny yellow clusters that don't even look like flowers unless you look with a magnifying glass.
Here's a couple of photos of one of my bushes showing the variation in leaves and a photo of leaves, ALL taken from the same stem.
The leaf at the top is probably three years old, the biggest two years old, the one in the middle from last year as is the smallest, with the two from this year a lighter green and still very soft and flexible.
They are very easy to dry. I just bring in a stem, strip off the leaves, toss them in a wire colander and leave it on the counter. If there are a lot of leaves I toss or stir them every day or so till they are dry enough to snap easily. For most recipes I will use 5 fresh bay leaves for 2 dried ones, unless they are exceptionally large.
Of this group, when I scrape the underside with a thumbnail, the tiny one has the strongest scent and the new growth from this year has the least.
You can see some brown spots on some of the leaves - I live in the high desert (SoCal) and we get hard freezes - it got down to 9 degrees F. this past January. The more exposed leaves get "frost burn"...
Edited by andiesenji, 10 May 2013 - 12:04 PM.