Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Plant profile: Euphorbia

Where to begin with Euphorbias? They come in such an amazing array of types that you wouldn't believe they were related! Everything from small trees to cacti to your holiday poinsettia. Annuals and perennials. All sorts. According to Wikipedia "The genus Euphorbia is one of the largest and most complex genera of flowering plants and several botanists have made unsuccessful attempts to subdivide the genus into numerous smaller genera. According to the recent phylogenetic studies, Euphorbia can be divided into 4 subgenera, each containing several not yet sufficiently studied sections and groups."

What all that means is I'm going to cover quite a few different plants here - we have about 10 or more of the 2,160 species available in P. Garden. One thing they do have in common is a caustic, poisonous milky sap (latex) containing terpen ester resiniferatoxin. In contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) the latex can produce extremely painful inflammation. In experiments with animals it was found that the terpen ester resiniferatoxin had an irritating effect 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than capsaicin, the "hot" substance found in chillies.

Yep, once again - don't touch or eat the plants, and keep your pets out of the borders!

Latin name: Euphorbia ("you-FORB-ee-ah")
Common name: Spurge
Originally from:  Tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and the Americas, but also in temperate zones worldwide. Succulent species originate mostly from Africa, the Americas and Madagascar.
Blooms: They're more of a foliage plant. Flowers are not usually very showy.
Light: Full sun to light shade.

Water: Drought tolerant! For the most part, the only problem we have had with them is giving them too much water by mistake.
Where to see in P. Garden: Well, we have a lot of them! Photos from the top:
Euphorbia polychroma "Blackbird" (Cushion Spurge) - left bed.
Euphorbia (what sort? Tall, thin type...) - cactus wall.
Euphorbia mellifera (Honey Spurge)
Several Euphorbia cacti in the cactus wall bed.
Euphorbia rigida - middle front bed. (Donkey Tail)

Also in the garden, but not shown:
Euphorbia myrsinites is right in front of the big variegated Agave - middle of the garden when you enter via the arch.
Euphorbia tirucalli "Sticks on Fire" (Red Pencil Tree) to the left of that.
Euphorbia lambii (Tree Euphorbia) - middle back bed.

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