Daphne odora

Word Smith: Daphne


According to www.greekmythology.com, Daphne was a Naiad nymph; naiads were minor goddesses associated with fountains, wells, springs, and other bodies of freshwater. Daphne was the daughter of either the river god Peneus and Creusa, or the river god Ladon.  According to the myth, she was beautiful and her beauty caught the attention of Apollo. Some mythology sources say that Apollo had been struck by one of Eros’ love-inducing arrows, and he started chasing Daphne. She tried to evade him. Just before she was caught, she pleaded to her father, Peneus or to the goddess Gaea. Daphne’s pleas were heard and she was transformed into a laurel tree. The laurel became the sacred tree of Apollo. At the Pythian Games, which were held in honor of Apollo, winners were given a laurel crown, as are the winners of the Boston Marathon. Meanwhile Pythia, a priestess at the oracle of Delphi, went into a prophetic trance because of the smoke of burning laurel leaves.


Daphne odora may be one of the sweetest fragrances that wafts through the air from late January through March. It is an old garden favorite and few yards in Northeast Portland are without a bush or two. Also know as Winter Daphne it is among a family of fragrant plants that flourish in the otherwise sleeping bulb months of the year.

The Daphne plant is from a genus of between 50 and 95 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs in the family, Thymelaeaceae. Native to Asia, Europe and North Africa, the Daphne are noted for their scented flowers and poisonous berries. It thrives in moist climates, hence its profusion the Pacific Northwest.


Cartoon Character: Daphne Blake

Growing up in Devon, PA, there was a young woman who lived in the house behind ours off Steeple Chase Road. Her name was Daphne Killhour. She was the eldest of four kids and we came to depend on them for playmates, Halloween partners, school friends and great neighbors. Hers was the first name that we could associate with both a flower or a goddess. Though Daphne has to compete with Rose and Lily and Ivy, other women might have something to say about the flower-goddess claim.

Here are a few flower names, not as romantic to me as Daphne, that are frequently attributed to women:

  • Samantha
  • Alyssa
  • Jasmine
  • Lotus
  • Iris
  • Sage
  • Heather
  • Holly
  • Sharon
  • Lillian
  • Violet
  • Leilani
  • Willow
  • Rosemary
  • Peony
  • Dahlia
  • Primrose
  • Hazel
  • Apple
  • Indigo
  • Poppy
  • Azalea
  • Hanna
  • Blossom
  • Amaryllis
  • Fern
  • Flora

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