EUPHORBIACEAE

This very extensive family of plants contains a large number of annual and perennial herbs and woody plants of the ordinary herbaceous type, as well as many plants which are succulents. The most interesting of these are in the genus Euphorbia.

EUPHORBIA. These are natives chiefly of S. Africa, where they grow in the deserts or veldt and cover dry mountain slopes, but their distribution is world-wide. The genus contains about 2,000 species. The Euphorbias have a very varied habit and there is an extraordinary similarity of form to the Cactaceae of America, although the two families are quite distinct in their characteristics. Some are thorny, fleshy shrubs, and others have slender branches. Some are columnar with a few or many ribs on the stems and branches, whilst others are spherical, and there are many intermediate forms. Only a few species have leaves, and these leaves are reduced or small, and soon fall off. Some Euphorbias have thorns, and some have none. All have a common characteristic in that they contain a milky juice or latex which is of little merit and often extremely poisonous. A suitable compost is 2 parts loam, 2 parts leaf-mould, 2 parts sharp sand, 2 parts broken brick, and J part broken mortar rubble. Cuttings can be rooted in a mixture of fine peat, sand, and charcoal.

Euphorbia bupleurifolia. Cape Province. Has a hard, sometimes almost globular stem like a variety of spherical cactus. Narrow leaves 4 to 5 inches in length grow from its top in spring. The stem will grow to about 4 to 6 inches, with a diameter of about 3 J inches. The flowers are green to reddish, on short stalks.

Euphorbia caput-medusae. S. Africa. Has a short stem, with numerous grey-green branches, up to 30 inches long, radiating in all directions. The flowers are numerous at the tips of the branches. The species requires full sun and a warm position.

Euphorbia grandidens. S. Africa. A tree-growing species forming several trunks side by side. These give off branches more or less in regular layers, at first erect but later standing out more horizontally, and triangular in section. The edges are somewhat wavy, and provided with pairs of brown thorns.

Euphorbia horrida. S. Africa. Has a low stem, branching at the base, with 12 to 15 or more narrow ribs. There are deep grooves between the ribs, which are notched along the edges.

Euphorbia actea. Indonesia. A vigorous bush, with a straight, erect, 3- or 4-sided trunk 1 to 3 inches in diameter, dark green with a grey marbled band in the centre of almost flat sides; this band curves in feathery fashion towards the edges. Short strong pairs of brown thorns are mounted on hard, round shields.

Euphorbia meloformis. Cape Province. Looks very like a spherical green or grey-green cactus, with 8 to 10 or more ribs regularly marked from the grooves upwards. The growing centre is sunken. Does not require much moisture.

Euphorbia obesa. Cape Province. A much sought after plant. Resembles a small football, varying in size from 3 to 4 inches in diameter, but growing larger with age. The plant body is pale grey-green with rusty coloured, longitudinal and transverse stripes. The growing centre is slightly depressed. This plant should be given all the light possible, especially in winter.

Euphorbia mammillaris. Cape Province. Has more or less cylindrical growths up to 18 inches high, much branched, and covered with 7 to 12 rows of studded ribs. The short-stalked, solitary inflorescences appear in rings around the growing top. The stems do not wither with the flower but remain as long, straight thorns.

Euphorbia neriifolia. E. Indies. Has large leathery leaves, light green and very handsome. It occurs as shrubs and as small trees. The pentagonal stem is highly succulent, and may grow to be very thick. It bears short black thorns. The flowers are almost sessile, small, greenish-yellow to red. There is a cristate form in cultivation.

Euphorbia ingens. Widely distributed from E. Africa to Natal and the Transvaal. It grows into a tree with the trunk branched to form a round head, the branches having 4 thin angles; the thorns are very small or absent.

Euphorbia polygona. In appearance it looks very much like a cactus, growing to a height of 5 or 6 feet, the diameter of the stems being 6 inches or more. The growth is very slow in cultivation and usually the plant remains small. The stems never branch as it forms new growth at the base. Ribs number 10 to 13, and are straight but sometimes twisted, sparsely furnished with J-inch thorns, which are the remains of the flower stems. The furrows are narrow but deep, almost fissures.

Euphorbia falsa. Very like E. melojormis. The flower stems remain alter the flowers have withered, giving excellent protection in the wild against animals. The plant makes numerous offsets.

Euphorbia splendens. Madagascar. A very popular plant, with numerous large dark brown branches bearing very sharp thorns. Its popular name is the “Crown of Thorns”. The bright green leaves are about 11 inches long and f inch broad, smooth and leathery. It flowers almost throughout the year, but chiefly in spring, and likes a warm position during the winter. Sometimes listed as E. Milii.

Euphorbia valida. Cape Province. Similar to E. meloformis. It is spherical when young, but later becomes cylindrical. The old flower stems persist for several years on the plant.

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