Wild Flowers - Spurge-Laurel - Daphne laureola

Spurge-Laurel - Daphne laureola © Tony Hall
Spurge-Laurel - Daphne laureola © Tony Hall

Spurge-Laurel - Daphne laureola

by Tony Hall

A small,bushy, woody,evergreen shrub growing to around 1m - 1.5m tall,with a very upright habit. The young stems are green, becoming greyish-brown when mature. The thick, leathery, alternateleaves are in over-lapping whorls, which usually cover the entire stems. They are oblanceolate, glossydark-green above, lighter and duller beneath.

The greenish-yellow flowersusually have a mildly honeyed fragrance, andare borne in small clusters. Individually they have a short, wide, tubular base and four and thick,almost diamond-shaped petals. Flowers are produced in the leaf axilsduring early spring, and are thought to be mainly pollinated by a small pollen beetle, but they are also visited by bees. Flowers are followed by black berries in late summer. This is a plant that is also native to Britain.

This is generally an understorey plant that can tolerate quite deep shade beneath pines and oaks, growing in the mountains and mainly on calcareous soils. It grows well in the Abies pinsapo forest in the Sierra de las Nieves, flowering,January - April, or June in the higher altitudes.

All parts of this plant are poisonous and the sap can cause skin irritations!

Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.