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Dispose of this Daphne

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Daphne laurel can be an awful weed.

Most gardeners swoon at the mention of Daphne, but Daphne laurel isn’t one to keep! But don’t be confused by its many common names. In fact, this plant goes by many names such as spurge daphne, daphne laurel, and spurge laurel. So to be clear, it is a Daphne. But it isn’t one you probably want to keep growing you your garden.

Daphne laurel

Daphne laureola – a true weed shrub – in bloom in early spring.

However, getting rid of daphne laurel may not be simple. So this article gets into why to remove weedy daphne laurel. Plus, I’ve included some photos to help you identify your spurge laurels. Moreover, I’ve got some tips to help make removing it easier and safer for you.

Is Daphne laurel a weed?

In King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, this sucker is a “Non-Regulated Class B Noxious Weed“. Essentially, that means it’s non-native, invasive, wide-spread, and landowners are encouraged to do everything they can to keep it from spreading more. In other Washington state counties, where this junky plant hasn’t established itself as well as it has in King County, it’s often mandated that landowners remove it.

Moreover, if you happen to have native land where this stuff is growing, contact your local weed board manager. In Washington state, many county and state agencies are monitoring this nasty Daphne in hopes of keeping it in check.

And in areas outside Washington, it has the potential to become problematic too. If you happen to be outside Washington state and aren’t sure if this plant is a problem in your area, contact your local extension or state agency for assistance. The USDA Plant Profile page may be a good place to start.

So why has Daphne laurel been put on these noxious weed lists anyway?

Here’s why spurge daphne can be problematic…

Spurge daphne is a small evergreen that thrives in even dry shade. And that might sound desirable since getting plants to grow in dry shade can be difficult. However, dry shade is also what exists in many of our native eco-systems (especially in the Pacific Northwest). So spurge daphne can become a problematic competitor. Plus, wildlife may ingest the fruits and deposit the seeds far and wide. And that means the plant spreads more and more.

Moreover, this plant can to be toxic to humans and pets — through ingestion as well as skin contact. Doesn’t sound so great now, does it?

Where might you find this spurge laurel in your garden?

We see this stuff popping up everywhere. Spurge laurel shows up in in rockeries, in new plantings, in established beds, and on forest trails. And sadly, often homeowners point it out as one of their favorite plants. That’s because it is so easy to take care of. Plus, it’s evergreen. And it might even be a bit fragrant when it blooms.

Daphne laureola weed

Uninvited Daphne laureola popped up in this otherwise designed garden bed.

How to identify spurge laurel daphne in your garden…

If you aren’t sure if that plant in your garden is a weed daphne or a good daphne, look for the following things. And if it is a weedy daphne, follow the tips below to remove the plant easily. But first, be sure it’s a problem plant. That’s because some Daphnes are actually very desirable landscape plants!

However, before you begin exploring the plant, remember it may be toxic to the touch. So be sure to put on protective gear whenever dealing with a suspicious plant!

  1. Is your plant about 2′-4′ tall and wide?
  2. Is your plant evergreen?
  3. Are the stems stiff and rubbery rather than brittle?
  4. Is the foliage or are the stems highly aromatic (not in a good way) when you (put on your protective gear) and cut or tear it?
  5. Does it have tiny green flowers in late winter to spring?
  6. Does it have (toxic! Don’t eat them) black berries along the stem in summer & fall?
  7. Did the plant seem to pop up out of nowhere?
  8. Did you try to pull it out by hand, and it wouldn’t budge?
  9. Does it look like any of the Daphne laureola photos we’ve shared?
  10. Is it growing in a spot where nothing else seems capable of growing?

If you answered yes to these questions, odds are you have a spurge daphne laurel to eradicate. So let’s get into how to remove spurge daphne weeds from your garden!

spurge daphne identification features

Daphne laureola stems are rubbery, brown & dotted. It has evergreen leaves and yellowish spring flowers that some say smell good at night.

The best way to remove daphne laurel weeds (in our experience)

Because Daphne laurel is highly toxic, be sure wear protective gear before you begin working on removing it. Then carefully dig out the entire root system of the plant. And be prepared to do a lot of digging. That’s because pulling out daphne weeds by hand may be very difficult. In fact, pulling even small seedlings can be tough. And do your best to eradicate the roots or you may have new suckers coming up. That’s because this baby knows how to root in well, which may be why it does so well in dry, shady spots.  Finally, if seeds have spread, clean those up as well or new seedlings are going to pop up everywhere.

spurge laurel weed

Daphne laureola loves shade, but it thrives in rockeries like this one in full sun.
Dig down and get out the root, or you many not completely eradicate it.

This plant is, botanically, Daphne laureola, but…

Botanically, the weedy plant we’re talking about is Daphne laureola. And it goes by the names spurge Daphne or spurge laurel. As well, it can look a bit like Euphorbias, which are often called spurge. And the species name laureola, it was bound to get called a laurel. However, the botanical name clarifies that it’s a Daphne.

But, not every Daphne is considered an invasive weed to be eradicated. In fact, there are several daphnes gardeners love. Take for example, Daphne odora. It’s a lovely, rubbery evergreen shrub. And it grows to about the same size as weedy spurge daphnes. But it blooms pink in winter. And the fragrance is unparalleled.

Daphne odora

This is one of the desirable Daphnes – don’t dump this one!
Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’ is semi-evergreen with variegated leaves & great spring fragrance.

So be sure the Daphne you’re getting ready to dig out is D. laureola. Otherwise, you might be digging out a desirable daphne that you’re going to regret removing. And if you need more help in your gardening endeavors, be sure to sign up for our help, downloads and newsletters today!

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