Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Daphne odora

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah - August

Common name winter daphne, daphne
Scientific name Daphne odora Thunb.
Family  Thymelaeaceae

Genus: Daphne - the name of the mythological Greek nymph transformed into a bay tree to escape Apollo’s affections. The leaves on this plant are similarly glossy.

Species: odora - Latin: fragrant

Distribution Cultivated in China and Japan for more than a 1000 years. The exact natural distribution is unclear.
Native habitat Can be found in forested areas.
Description A rounded shrub to a metre or more, with glossy dark green leaves. At flowering, the canopy is covered with clusters of fragrant, red and white flowers.
Flowering/fruiting Flowers in winter. Garden forms are commonly sterile.


Residence Garden, lower Brunet Garden.


Possibly the most strongly perfumed of the genus and the most commonly grown in Australia, mainly in the cooler, south-east. This Eurasian based genus contains slightly fewer than 100 species, about ten of which are held in the ‘living collection’ at either the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney or the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah.

Winter daphne comes with a reputation for being difficult in cultivation. Plants can die quickly and seldom last more than ten years.

The best advice seems to be: do not disturb the roots; provide fertile, well-drained soil, morning sun, shelter from afternoon heat and water; not too much and not too little! And, don’t feel too bad if it dies as you will be in very good company.

CAUTION: The sap is a skin irritant.

Daphne x burkwoodii flowers here in May and amethyst-coloured flowers clothe the bare branches of Daphne genkwa in September.

Available from some cool-climate plant nurseries.