In the past it was used to keep fleas away in the stables and even today it gives moderate results to keep flies away, but commonly, we strip the trunk of the bark and use it to tie bundles of asparagus and broom branches.
Blackbuckthorn (Daphne gnidium)
It is a plant distributed throughout the Mediterranean region, almost the entire Iberian Peninsula, the Canary and Balearic archipelagos and North Africa, where it grows in scrublands, pine forests and uncultivated land from sea level to 1400 meters altitude.
In the Granada region of the Alpujarra, in the heart of the Sierra de la Contraviesa, is located the municipality of Torvizcón, toponym that means ‘land of the torvisco’.
It is a shrub with many sword-shaped leaves, all pointing upwards: perhaps, it could be mistaken for a Euphorbia, but cutting a leaf quickly we see that no white latex comes out. It develops white flowers in late summer and autumn. Be careful with this plant because it is irritating.
Its fruit is red in color, in berry. It has narrow, lanceolate leaves. Due to the powerful purgative effect of the bark and leaves of the torvisco, it is considered poisonous, as it can cause blisters on the skin after prolonged contact.
The torvisco is a shrub with surprising properties. It has been used as an amulet and repellent of evil spirits since prehistoric times. It is the best plant species of the Iberian Peninsula to make ligatures, its bark is a natural rope for its flexibility and strength, with which you can make very firm knots. In some areas of Zamora it is customary to tie a strap of Daphne gnidium to the tails of lambs as a remedy to stop stomach rot; it is also known to be valuable as an insecticide in the henhouse, to keep hens safe from lice. This species has been used, since time immemorial, as a means of fishing in ponds and streams: its toxic resin attacks the oxygen in the water, so by throwing branches of this plant, fish were poisoned and, after two or three hours, they only had to be collected. This form of fishing is known as “entorviscar“ and besides being dangerous because it is indiscriminate, it is punishable by law in Spain.