This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
A southern type, Spurge Laurel is not represented in fossil seed-bearing deposits. It is found to-day in Europe in the N. Temperate Zone, south of Belgium, except in Russia and Greece, and in N. Africa and W. Asia. In Great Britain, Spurge Laurel is generally distributed, but does not grow in Cornwall in the Peninsula province; in the Channel province generally, except in S. Sussex; in the Thames province, except in W. Kent; in N. Wales, only in Carnarvon and Anglesea; throughout the Trent provinces, except in S. Lincs; in the Mersey province, only in Chester; in the Humber province; and in Scotland, only in Stirling; or generally from Durham to Devon and Kent, and in the Channel Isles.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Spurge Laurel (daphne Laureola, L.)
Spurge Laurel grows in many shaded, secluded spots under hedges, especially in fields and by the roadside. Here and there it is obviously planted, but in woods and plantations and along some highways contiguous to woods it may be truly native.
It is a medium-sized shrub, with an erect, woody stem, which seldom branches, and the leaves are mainly at the end of each stem, falling off below. They are lance-shaped, shiny, and smooth, the terminal buds being near the leaves, the lateral ones near the flowers.
The flowers are green (5), drooping, in cymes, axillary, with oblong bracts below, and funnel-shaped. The stamens are inserted on the upper part of the tube. The lobes of the calyx are as long as the tube. The fruit is a berry, which is blue or black, and egg-shaped.
It is an evergreen shrub, quite suited to the garden or shrubbery, where one may frequently find it. In height it varies from 2-4 ft. Flowers may be found between February and April.
In Daphne Mezereum the corolla tube is 6 mm. long and 2 mm. wide. The flower is suited to bees with a long proboscis, butterflies, Apis, Anthophora, Osmia, Halictus, Eristalis, Small Tortoise-shell Butterfly (Vanessa urticce). The stigma and anthers ripen together. The honey is secreted at the base of the ovary. An insect rubs its proboscis against the anthers, in 2 whorls of 4 stamens each, in the upper part of the tube, but does not dust it with pollen, which is only slightly sticky, and then touches at a lower level the stigma before it reaches the honey, so that it cross-pollinates it with pollen from a previous and different flower; and its proboscis is not dusted with pollen till it is withdrawn. If insects are absent pollen falls from the anthers upon the stigma.
The drupe is edible, black in colour, and dispersed largely by birds.
Spurge Laurel grows on a clayey or sandy soil.
Daphne, Dioscorides, is from Daphne, the name of a nymph changed by the gods into a bay tree. Laureola, Dodonaeus, is from the Latin, laurus, laurel.
Dwarf Bay, Fox Poison, Laurel, Copse Laurel, Spurge and Wood Laurel, Sturdy Lowries are the names that have been bestowed upon the Spurge Laurel.
It is a useful, ornamental shrub, which grows in the shade and drip of trees. It is acrid and highly irritant. The juice causes inflammation, and has been used for blistering, and the bark and berries for ulcers and sores. The roots have been used for toothache. For irritation it is employed externally.
Essential Specific Characters: 272. Daphne Laureola, L. - Evergreen shrub, little branched, leaves smooth, entire, tufted, flowers green, in axillary racemes, berries black.