Definitions

wood laurel

Daphne laureola

Daphne laureola, or Spurge-laurel (or Daphne-laurel, laurel-leaved daphne, olive-spurge, wood laurel, copse laurel), is a species of Daphne in the flowering plant family Thymelaeaceae. Despite the name, this woodland plant is neither a spurge nor a laurel but is one of the two species of Daphne native to Britain - the other being Daphne mezereum both of which have a strong preference for alkaline soils and are most commonly found in limestone areas (D. laureola 's native range also covers much of Europe and extends to Algeria, Morocco and the Azores). However, unlike Mezereon, D. laureola is an evergreen with yellowish green flowers borne very early in the Spring and black berries, which are poisonous to humans but not to birds, present from late Summer. All parts of the plants are poisonous. The sap is known to cause skin rashes on contact.

D. laureola reaches a height between 0.5-1.5 meters. The habit of this shrub can be upright or decumbent (arched at the base then spreading upward). The bark is thin and yellow-grey when mature, while immature stems are green.

The alternate leaves usually form dense whorls at the shoot tips, but may clothe entire branches. The leaves are oblanceolate to obovate-oblanceolate, 2-13 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. They are glabrous (smooth), dark green and glossy on the upper surface and lighter in color beneath.

The inconspicuous yellow-green axial flowers, usually hidden among the leaf bases, may be strongly fragrant, or may exhibit no scent at all.

Outside its native range, D. laureola can become a dangerous invasive weed. Growing in sun or shade, it is well-suited to the temperate forest understory and can rapidly colonize areas (both by seeding and by root suckering) to form monotypic stands and out-compete native vegetation. It is a Class B Noxious Weed in Washington state.

Hand-pulling is effective against small infestations (gloves must be worn to protect against the caustic sap); shrubs too large or too small to pull may be cut beneath the soil line.

References

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