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GENUS: Daphne

Daphne x Burkwoodii Turril 'Somerset'—Daphne

Daphne mezereum L.—Mezereum

FAMILY: Thymelaeaceae—the Mezereum Family

Two genera of the mezereum family occur in Pennsylvania, with Daphne being a poisonous member. Uncommon in the Commonwealth, it occasionally is grown as an ornamental, either in landscaping or under glass. Some members of the genus are evergreen (southern states); a few are deciduous and cold-hardy. Nurseries and garden centers in Pennsylvania sell Daphne x Burkwoodii 'Somerset'. It is not known whether this species is poisonous. The data provided below have been accumulated from research and case studies of mezereum (D. mezereum). This species, one of the finest and most easily cultivated of the daphnes, may be available in Pennsylvania nurseries.

PHENOLOGY: Somerset daphne, D. x Burkwoodii flowers in mid-May, whereas D. mezereum produces blossoms in mid-March, April, or early May.

DISTRIBUTION: Somerset daphne is a cultivated landscape plant; mezereum is cultivated but has escaped to roadsides, thickets, and old lime quarries in the New England states. It is not known as an escaped plant in Pennsylvania.

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: Daphne x Burkwoodii is a cross between D. caucasia Pall. and D. Cneorum L. The flowers are sweetly fragrant, freely produced, and creamy white to pinkish tinged. It is a shrub, slightly taller than one meter, evergreen or partially so in protected areas, and deciduous in harsher ones. Inf1orescence: crowded with 6-16 flowers in terminal clusters, 5 cm wide surrounded by foliage leaves; flowers: 1-1.5 cm wide; fruits: red.

Daphne mezereum is a deciduous shrub, 1-2 m tall; flowers: very fragrant, 1-1.5 cm wide, produced from the buds of leafless stems in spring, grouped in 2's or 3's; fruits: scarlet-red or yellow, 7-10 mm wide, mature in June.

POISONOUS PARTS: All parts are poisonous, especially the "berries" (drupes).

SYMPTOMS: Toxicosis includes local irritation, burning or ulceration of mouth and digestive tract, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, internal bleeding, weakness, coma, and death.

POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: The toxin daphnin has been isolated. Drupes contain a glycoside; the aglycone is dthydroxy-coumarin.

CONFUSED TAXA: There are about 50 species of deciduous or evergreen shrubs in the genus. Cultivated plants with alternate, simple, entire leaves and cylindrical calyx tube with 4 spreading lobes forming the conspicuous part of the flower probably are Daphne.

SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Humans develop symptoms upon consumption of small quantities of daphne. Children have died from eating only a few drupes.

TREATMENT: (9); (11a)(b); (26)

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