Spurge Olive

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Spurge Olive

 

dwarf olive (Daphne mezereum), a deciduous subramose shrub of the family Thymelaeceae. Height, up to 1.5 m. The leaves are alternate, dark green, and narrow, on short petioles. The flowers are bisexual, mostly rose, less frequently white and other shades; they are fragrant and nectar-bearing. They grow in clusters or singly on naked shoots and appear early in the spring before the foliage or simultaneously with it. The stone fruits (“berries”) are bright red, oval, and juicy, with shiny spherical seeds. All parts of the plant are toxic.

Spurge olive is found almost everywhere in Europe, most frequently in the forest zone, in the underbrush of coniferous and mixed forests, and less frequently in broad-leaved forests of the forest steppe. It occurs east to Lake Baikal. From time to time it is grown as an ornamental plant. Because it is poisonous, it should not be planted in places accessible to children. The name for spurge olive in Russian, volch’i iagody, is also given to other shrubs and herbs with red and black berry-like inedible or poisonous fruits—for example, red-berried elder, alder buckthorn (their fruits are not berries, but juicy stone fruits), and fly honeysuckle; the herbs called by this name include baneberry, paris, and some members of the nightshade family.

A. P. SHIMANIUK