Herb: Leather Wood

Latin name: Dirca occidentalis

Family: Thymelaeaceae (Mezereum Family)

Description of the plant:


180 cm
(6 feet)


Habitat of Leather Wood:

Moist situations, often on calcareous soils.

Other uses of the herb:

The following uses are for the closely related D. palustris, they quite possibly also apply to this species. The tough flexible shoots are used in basket making and as a tying material. A rope can be made from the bark fibres. The bark fibres are also used in making paper. The stems are harvested in summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The outer and inner barks are separated by scraping or peeling. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours or less with soda ash and then beaten with mallets or put through a blender. The paper is greenish cream in colour.

Propagation of Leather Wood:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Remove the fruit flesh since this can inhibit germination. Dried seed will require 2 - 3 months cold stratification. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 6 months at 15C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Layering.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist situations, often on calcareous soils.

Medicinal use of Leather Wood:

None known

Known hazards of Dirca occidentalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.