| What is Myrtlewood?
Common Name: Oregon Myrtlewood, Pepperwood, Bay Laurel
Latin Name: Umbellularia californica
Family: Lauraceae (Laurel)
Oregon Myrtlewood is a broadleaf evergreen
native to Southwestern Oregon and Northwestern California. The Umpqua River
watershed appears to be the northern boundary of its native habitat.
Although different, Oregon Myrtlewood
has a lot of similarities to the Myrtlewood growing in the Holy Land.
The Myrtle tree grows 60-120’ in the wild.
It is very slow growing putting on only 1-12" of growth during each of its
first few years. They may take 80-120 years to reach full size. It is often
multi trunk but can be kept pruned to a single trunk tree. When growing in the
open it tends to have a dense, rounded , ‘gumdrop shape’. On a shady
hillside it grows much taller and narrower. Myrtlewood tolerates many
conditions, but grows best and fastest in deep soil with lots of compost, ample
water and full sun.
The leaves are 3-5 inches long, 1 inch wide,
pointed at the tip, medium green, glossy on top, and dull light green beneath.
The crushed leaves have a powerful aromatic scent which can be used as a sure
identification. The leaves are frequently used in cooking as a substitute for
True Bay (Lauris nobilis), and are also noted as a flea repellant when freshly
crushed. The Myrtlewood has clusters of small yellow flowers (or umbels) which
bloom in late winter and olive like seeds or nuts which usually fall from the
trees in the fall.
Myrtlewood trees will regrow from their stump and are also
grown from their seeds. The Myrtlewood Gallery in Reedsport is actively planting
Myrtlewood trees around the area.
Here many trees are growing from a fallen log.
Oregon Myrtlewood became popular for making gift items back in the early 1900’s.
It is a hardwood which takes many finishes well. Oregon Myrtlewood possesses a
wide variety of beautiful colors and grain patterns and is noted
many as being one of the world’s most beautiful woods. The color of the wood
is often influenced by the minerals in the soil where it grows which could be a
factor in its popularity here on the Oregon coast. The colors range from blond
to black with many shades of honey, browns, grays, reds and greens in
Oregon woodworkers have developed a small cottage industry
making handcrafted Myrtlewood products and gifts for visitors and residents of
the area. Many beautiful gifts and works of art crafted out of Myrtlewood by
over 80 different Oregon Artists are displayed at The Myrtlewood Gallery in
Myrtlewood trees can be seen where they have been planted
around town, along the river banks, or along many of the highways and backroads
of the surrounding South coast range. Highway 38 & 138 from about 12 miles
east of Reedsport toward Roseburg is lined with lots of Myrtle trees. Humbug
Park, South of Port Orford on 101, is another good place to view full grown
In the Bible, the Myrtle tree is of special
religious significance, representing fertility and life.
A few examples of Myrtlewood’s exquisite