Shrubs with a very tough, acrid bark, entire leaves and perfect flowers, with the calx tubular, colored, the limb 4 (4 or 5)-parted, regular, the tube bearing the stamens as many or usually twice as many as its lobes, and free from the ovary, which is 1-celled, 1-ovuled, the suspended seed with little or no albumen.
Genera 40, species 875, very abundant in Australia and S. Africa, sparingly disseminated in Europe and Asia. The only N. American genus is the following.
Properties. - The bark is acrid and caustic, raising blisters upon the skin. It is composed of interlaced fibers, which are extremely touch, but easily separable. The lace-bark tree (Lagetta) of Jamaica is particularly remarkable for this property.
DIR'CA, L. Leather-wood. (Gr. a fountain; the shrub grows near mountain streams or rivulets.) Calyx colored, tubular, with a truncate or obscurely 4-toothed limb; stamens 8, unequal, longer than and inserted into the tube; style 1; berry 1-seeded. - Lvs. alternate, simple. Fls. expanding before the oblong-obovatc lvs., 3 from each bud.
D. palustris L. - A shrub 5f in height when full grown, U. S. and Can. The fls. appear in April and May, much earlier than the leaves. They are small, yellow, funnel-shaped, about 3 together, with a bud-like involucre. Lvs. from the same buds, entire, on short petioles, pale underneath. Stam. much longer than the calyx, alternately a long and a short one. Berry oval, small, red. Every part of this shrub is very tough. The twigs furnish "rods for the fool's back," the bark is used for ropes, baskets, etc.
DAPHNE is a genus differing from Dirca by its spreading calyx limb and included stamens.
D. Mezereum, with deciduous lvs. and D. Laureola with evergreen lvs. are occasionally cultivated.