Daphne Family

Western Leatherwood © DSchiel

Mezereum Family
Thymelaeaceae (thim-e-le-A-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Usually shrubs
  • Fibrous, flexible stems with shiny bark
  • Flower a tube, funnel, or bell

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Most often shrubs; can be trees or vines
  • Stems
    • Distinctly fibrous, strong, and flexible
    • Shiny bark
    • Raised leaf-attachment scars
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets) and entire (with smooth margins)
    • Usually alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) usually a cluster at the leaf axil (branching point)
    • Usually bisexual flower, with tube, funnel or bell shape
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit usually a single-seeded berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall), often mistaken for a drupe (a fleshy fruit with usually 1 seed in a hard inner shell — a stone fruit)


  • Approximately 750 species worldwide, especially in southern Africa and Australia
    • Includes ornamental plants (e.g. daphne)
    • Dirca is the only genus native to the continental United States (Hudson 2021)
  • Many species are poisonous and have an unpleasant odor
  • Most species pollinated by butterflies and other long-tongued insects
  • Tough, flexible bark can be peeled from the wood in long strips (Hudson 2022)
    • Species of Broussonetia, Edgeworthia, and Wikstroemia are used in Japan to make a strong, semi-transparent, bug-resistant handmade paper, washi, for printmaking, banknotes, and clothing
    • Members of other genera (e.g. Dais, Daphne, and Eriosolena) are used around the world to make paper, cordage, and clothing
  • Scientific name from the included Mediterranean genus Thymelaea, from the Greek for “thyme” and “olive,”
    referring to the thyme-like foliage and the small olive-like fruits of that genus
  • Common name from the shrub Daphne mezereum, native to Eurasia
    • Also known as the Rope Bark or Fiber Bark family (Hudson 2022)
  • Ambiguous, complex flower parts have made classification of species challenging
  • Western leatherwood (Dirca occidentalis) is the only representative of this family in Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Hudson, Z. and W. Graves. 2021, Nov. 23. Tensile strength of the bark of Dirca L. and other genera of Thymelaeaceae. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 149: 1-7. BioOne.

Hudson, Z., et al. 2022. From Dirca to design: Printing with leatherwood (Dirca mexicana) bark paper. Journal of Visual Art Practice 21: 1-24. Taylor and Francis Online.

Thymelaea hirsuta. 2005-2019. Flowers in Israel. Ed. Martha Modzelevich.

Browse Edgewood Plants in this Family