Trees , to 15(-20) m. Branches pubescent, hairs erect, crisped. Leaf blade ovate to elliptic, 8-14 × 2-5 cm; surfaces abaxially pale, glaucous, densely pubescent when young with rusty brown, erect, crisped hairs, glabrescent with age, adaxially green, lustrous. Inflorescences: peduncle longer than subtending leaf petiole, pubescent. Drupe ca. 8 mm wide. 2 n = 24. Flowering spring-early summer. Primarily in wetlands but not restricted to them; swamps, marshes, low pinewoods, savannas, maritime forests (sometimes mixed with P . borbonia ); Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains, less common in the Piedmont; 0-185 m; Ala., Del., Fla. Ga., La., Md., Miss., N.C., S.C., Tex., Va.; West Indies (Bahamas).
Tall shrub or tree to 10(-15) m, with thin, gray, fissured bark; twigs densely rusty-villous-tomentose; lvs lanceolate to oblong or oblanceolate, 10-15 cm, evidently and loosely villous or villous-tomentose beneath, but often glabrescent except for the usually persistently hairy midvein; petiole 1-2 cm; infls of axillary, compound dichasia, with numerous fls, the peduncle mostly 2-7 cm long and longer than the petiole; inner tepals 4-5 mm; anthers 4- locular; filaments puberulent; fr black, subglobose to ellipsoid, ca 1 cm; 2n=24. Swamps and wet woods on the coastal plain; Md. to Fla., Tex., and Bahama I. May, June (P. pubescens; P. borbonia var. pubescens)
The closely allied but less hairy P. borbonia (L.) Spreng., red bay, with the lvs thinly and closely rufous-strigulose beneath, and with short peduncles scarcely surpassing the petioles, has been attributed to our range but appears to be wholly more southern.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.