Daphne, a wood nymph or water nymph of Grecian mythology. It seems doubtful whether there were not three distinct characters of the name in Greek legend. The best known and received version of her story relates that Apollo became enamored of her, and pursued her when she fled from him. As she was about to be overtaken, she besought her mother Ge (Terra) to help her. The earth opened and received her, and as a compensation to Apollo for her loss created the laurel, which was always afterward sacred to him. According to Ovid, Daphne herself was transformed into a laurel tree. Another legend is that Leucippus, a prince of Pisa in Elis, introduced himself disguised as a young girl into the nymph's society; but Apollo caused his discovery, and Daphne and her companions put him to death.
Daphne, the ancient name of a place near Antioch in Syria, containing a large and beautiful grove of laurels and cypresses, and a magnificent temple of Apollo, which was built by Antiochus Epiphanes. The most licentious scenes were enacted here, and the Roman general Cassius would not allow his soldiers to visit the place. When the emperor Julian came to Antioch the temple was almost deserted, and before he left the city it was consumed by fire, set probably by some Christian incendiary. It was never rebuilt.
Daphne, a genus of ornamental plants, natives of the more temperate parts of Europe and Asia. Some are cultivated for beauty and fragrance, as the D. odora; others for their vivid green foliage, as the D. laureola of Britain; and others are useful in the arts. D. mezereum, a deciduous plant with white or purple fragrant flowers closely attached to the shoots, is the earliest blooming shrub of our gardens, the blossoms appearing in the beginning of April, before the leaves expand. This species has a bad reputation, the berries being used in Sweden to poison wild animals, and a very few of them being fatal to man. The juice is acrid, and produces inflammation and even blisters upon the skin. The inner bark of D. lagetta, the lace tree of Jamaica, if macerated in water, is easily separated into thin layers, and has the appearance of lace.