Also known as Spurge Laurel

Daphne mezereum


Daphne, close-up

Growing wild in the northeastern United States, Daphne is a cultivated plant elsewhere, and may be from one to four feet tall. It has small flowers and a quarter inch fruit that may be red or yellow. The entire plant is poisonous, but the berries are the usual offenders. It only requires a few of them to kill a child.

We delivered some llamas recently to a place where there had been an old homestead. The pastures were great but they had daphne growing everywhere. It seems that this plant spreads readily. Apparently the horses didn’t eat it, but as llamas are browsers, we got the new owner busy cutting down all of the daphne plants as well as any that were in reach through the fence.

Spurge Laurel is a deciduous shrub with a height of four to five feet which is usually grown as an ornamental plant. The leaves are single, elliptical, about three and a half inches long and three quarters of an inch wide. The flowers are usually lilac purple and appear in clusters before the leaves emerge. The fruit is scarlet and contains a pit. The whole plant is toxic. The juice of the plant is a primary irritant and produces burning and inflammation of the mouth and throat. Severe gastoenteritis occurs with vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Spurge Laurel intoxications are serious and potentially lethal.