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MEZEREON

Daphne mezereum

Mezereon Family [Thymelaeaceae]  

Flowers:
month8jan month8feb month8mar month8march month8apr month8april

Berries: berryZpossible        berryZgreen berryZred  (highly poisonous)
berry8jun berry8june berry8jul berry8july berry8aug berry8sep berry8sept berry8oct berry8Nov berry8Dec

category
category8Shrubs
 
category
category8Deciduous
 
category
category8Broadleaf
 
status
statusZalien
 
flower
flower8lilac flower8pink
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8orange
 
petals
petalsZ4
sepals
type
typeZspiked
(short)

morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ4
(sepals)
type
typeZspiked
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8scent smell8windowlene
scented
toxicity
toxicityZsevere
 
contact
contactZmedium
 
rarity
rarityZscarce
 
sex
sexZbisexual
 

17th March 2010, London. Photo: © Philip Draper
Stems mostly bereft of leaves apart from those at the very top. White and pink flowers adorn the stem on very short stalks.


4th Sept 2006, A garden, Walkden, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
Cultivated variety Rubra before it died of frost in the winter. Branches are few.


7th April 2015, old quarry, Millers Dale, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Grows up to 2m high, here in the wild in a quarry, so possibly not planted. Typical are the small plume of oval leaves at the summit of every branch.


7th April 2015, old quarry, Millers Dale, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have pink or white trumpet-shaped flowers with four flared sepals. The pale-fawn coloured stem usually has many bare patches. Leaves are light-green and are produced in groups of 2 to 4 in the axils of last-years leaves and well after the flower has appeared.


13th June 2012, Bavaria. Photo: © Dawn Nelson
The fruit, visible in the centre lowest flower, is 8 to 12mm long, bright-red and ellipsoidal. This specimen partly covered in a cobweb.


17th March 2010, London. Photo: © Philip Draper
Four pinkish-lilac sepals (it has zero petals) have an orange coloured centre. Lanceolate pale-green leaves have very fine hairs on the edges. Un-opened buds yet to flower. The light-fawn coloured stems are covered in a pattern of dark dots.


7th April 2015, old quarry, Millers Dale, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Leaves yet to un-fold atop.


7th April 2015, old quarry, Millers Dale, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
The leaf buds are blackish (side branch just starting to grow on the left).


7th April 2015, old quarry, Millers Dale, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Top: side view of flower with blackish sepals.


7th April 2015, old quarry, Millers Dale, White Peaks. Photo: © RWD
Petals wrinkly and stubby and hairy on the outside. Four orange-yellow stamens are visible within, but according to the book it should have 8 stamens (perhaps the other 4 are shorter here?).


30th June 2010, London. Photo: © Philip Draper
After last winters' severe frosts it has gone very bushy, shooting out sideways, and with many more berries than is usual. Darker leaves are some other plant.


30th June 2010, London. Photo: © Philip Draper
Leaves and berries.


30th June 2010, London. Photo: © Philip Draper
The berries are green at first, turning red when ripe.


17th March 2010, London. Photo: © Philip Draper
Older stems are knobbled where flowers and then afterwards where the deadly poisonous red berries once were before falling off.


Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : The otherwise bare stems closely covered in white to pink 8-sepalled flowers.

A strongly fragrant flower which some liken to that of Windolene. And when cut, the plant produces a very nasty smell. It is more likely to be found in a garden than growing wild, especially since any that are growing wild tend to be illegally uprooted and re-planted in gardens!

Likes limy soils in woodlands or on scrubland. Has red-berried fruits. Leaves lanceolate and pale green. It is an alpine species, and like most, has the ability to grow much better when in a sheltered and warmer environment.

It seems it is like most flowering trees and bushes this year: if they survived the long deep freeze at all last winter, then they have been prolific in flower. It may be connected with heat shock proteins (plants might have cold shock ones too). The plant has 'decided' that if it is going to survive another winter like that one, then happen it had better produce a lot more seed just to make sure.

Mezereon has in the past been used in traditional medicine as a laxative.

In some places Mezereon is native.

Not to be confused with: Portmeirion, a place in North Wales.

PHORBOL ESTERS

This plant is highly poisonous, being one of the most deadly poisonous plants around, its beauty belying its extreme toxicity. It contains the phorbol esters mezerein and daphnetoxin, which activate protein kinase C. These two are strong cellular poisons; abortifacients and co-carcinogens. The consumption of just 10 berries can be lethal. Not only are the two toxins potent purgatives inducing drastic diarrhoea shortly after ingestion, but they are also strong skin irritants causing urticaria, destroying skin and leading to necrosis and sloughing of dead skin. Ingestion causes first burning in the mouth, then vomiting, impaired consciousness, pupil dilation, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vertigo, arrhythmia, delirium, serious kidney problems and death by collapse after 1 to 3 days.

The toxins responsible for the toxicity of Mezereon are two Phorbol Esters from the Daphnane Series, Mezerein and its close relative Daphnetoxin. The Phorbol Esters are confined to the Spurge Family [Euphorbiaceae] and the Thymeliaceae Family, of which Mezereon is a member. [See Sea Spurge for many other Phorbol Esters].

Both phorbol esters contain an active 1,2-epoxy group, shown in red.

AN IRRELEVANT CURIOSITY

The pyramidal group with the three bridging oxygen atoms (epoxy-groups, shown in blue) is found in some other highly toxic substances; such as Bryophyllin A, which is present in some poisonous plants of the Kalanchoe (Bryophyllum) Genus, which is not native to the UK (belonging to the Crassulaceae).

[Bryophyllin A is not a constituent of Mezereon].

A GLYCOSIDIC COUMARIN & ITS AGLYCONE


Daphnin(e) is a toxic glycosidic Coumarin produced within Mezereon and a few other plants belonging to the Daphne Genera. It is Daphnetin-7-glucoside. Enzymes can release the sugar molecule liberating Daphnetin, a coumarin. Mezereon also contains Umbelliferone another coumarin.


  Daphne mezereum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Thymelaeaceae  

Distribution
 family8Mezereon family8Thymelaeaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Daphne
Daphne
(Mezereons)

MEZEREON

Daphne mezereum

Mezereon Family [Thymelaeaceae]  

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