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spurge laurel (Daphne laureola)
ODA rating: B
USDA Symbol: DALA11
Oregon spurge laurel distribution

Other common names
daphne, daphne-spurge, daphne-laurel

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Images courtesy of Rick Johnson, Thurston County
If images are downloaded and used from the ODA web site please be sure to credit the photographer.
Spurge laurel is an attractive ornamental plant known for its spiraling evergreen leaves and greenish-yellow, bitter-fragrant flowers. Larger patches of this species emit a strong unpleasant odor. Flowering occurs in late winter-early spring, producing clusters of blue berries during the spring. The one-seeded drupes are eaten and dispersed widely by birds and small mammals. Shrubs reach a height of 0.5-1.5 meters. They can be either upright or arch over to a more sprawling form. This weed tolerates low light levels from partial to deep shade. It prefers better-drained clay loams and forest loams with neutral to acidic soils. Escaped populations form dense stands mostly under tree canopies. High plant densities produce an abundance of short-lived seeds most of which germinate within 2 years. Young plants will flower and reproduce in the second year under good conditions. Birds are the primary dispersal mechanism.

Escaped populations from ornamental plantings continue to expand into forested areas especially adjacent to urban areas. As birds further disperse seeds, more habitats will be invaded and native plant communities altered. Oak woodland forests are the greatest at-risk forests because of this and other aggressive weed species in addition to land clearing activities. The Oregon Nurserymans Buyer Guide lists no producers of spurge laurel in Oregon and It is no longer a plant of any commercial value. Most plant parts are toxic to humans and contain toxic compounds tigliane diterpenes and coumaris glycosides. Contact with the sap can cause skin irritation and ingestion of the seeds can create poisoning especially in small children.

The Daphne family consists of 500 species mostly small shrubs or occasional herbs. Most members of the group produce stem fibers and a few are used for papermaking in Asia. Spurge laurel was planted throughout the Pacific Northwest for decades. It is a native to much of Western Europe and the southern countries of Eastern Europe. It is also widespread throughout North Africa. Southern British Columbia, especially southern Vancouver island and in the Vancouver area, have well established populations of spurge laurel. In Washington State, many west-side counties have escaped populations near urban areas. The greater Seattle area and several of the San Juan islands have significant escaped populations.

Distribution in Oregon
Oregon contains fewer escaped populations then Washington and they are also centered around human populations centers. The two largest infestations are located in Yamhill and Benton counties.

Biological controls
There are no biological control agents available at this time for this plant.
Informational links
Spurge laurel printable trifold(pdf)