The Laurales are an order of flowering plants comprising seven families that contain some 2500–2800 species in 100 genera. Most Laurales are tropical trees or shrubs, often with scented wood of great durability. Besides being a source of high quality timber, the Laurales also include the avocado tree (Persea americana), a native of Mexico and Central America, the cinnamon tree and the camphor tree (Cinnamomum species), native in Southeast Asia, and the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), native in the Mediterranean region. The earliest lauraceous fossils are from the early Cretaceous, and within flowering plants, the order is among the oldest groups to diversify. The presently accepted classification of the seven families is based on molecular sequence data.

Key Concepts:

  • Many ancient groups of flowering plants are tropical trees.

  • Flowering plants came to dominate the World's flora during the Early Cretaceous.

  • Most tropical tree species have minute flowers, pollinated by bees, flies, or beetles.

  • Biogeographic studies of ancient tropical plant groups today usually rely on molecular clock‐based estimates of divergence times.

Keywords: angiosperms; plant classification

Figure 1.

Flowers of Illigera cf. thorelii from Vietnam. Photo by Duc Trong Nghiem, Department of Botany, Ha Noi University of Pharmacy, Vietnam.

Figure 2.

Fruits of Mollinedia ovata from Bolivia. Photo by Michael Nee, The New York Botanical Garden, New York, USA.

Figure 3.

Phylogeny of the Laurales based on chloroplast DNA sequences (Renner, ).



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Further Reading

Renner SS (2005) Variation in diversity among Laurales, Early Cretaceous to Present. Biologiske Skrifter, Copenhagen 55: 441–458.

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How to Cite close
Renner, Susanne S(May 2011) Laurales. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003695.pub2]