What Are Euphorbia Plants

The spurge family includes the enormous and diversified genus of flowering plants known as Euphorbia, sometimes known as spurge (Euphorbiaceae). In common English, the term “Euphorbia” is occasionally used to refer to all members of the family Euphorbiaceae as a whole (in honor of the original genus). [2] Some euphorbias, like poinsettias around Christmas, are commonly sold commercially. Some, like the crown of thorns plant, are frequently grown as ornamentals or are collected and highly valued for the aesthetic appeal of their distinctive floral structures (Euphorbia milii). Because euphorbias from Southern Africa and Madagascar’s deserts have developed morphological traits and shapes resembling cacti from North and South America, they are frequently mistakenly referred to as cacti. [3] Because they can withstand heat and drought and have attractive or striking overall forms, some plants are employed as ornamentals in landscaping. [4] [5]

The euphorbia genus includes small annual plants and enormous, long-lived trees.

The genus is one of the largest genera of flowering plants, with over[4] or over 2,000 members[6].


Along with Rumex and Senecio, it also possesses one of the widest ranges of chromosomal counts.

[7]The type species for the genus Euphorbia is Euphorbia antiquorum.

[9] Carl Linnaeus published the first description of it in Species Plantarum in 1753.

The plants all have strange and distinctive floral structures in addition to a deadly, milky, white, latex-like sap.

[4] The genus can be characterized by the traits of the DNA sequences of its members or by the morphology of the flower heads. The flower head appears to be a single flower when seen as a whole (a pseudanthium). It has a special type of bloom, called a cyathium, in which each flower in the head is stripped down to the minimal minimum required for sexual reproduction. [4] Each flower is either male or female, with the male flowers consisting only of the stamen and the female flowers solely of the pistil. [4] These flowers lack petals, sepals, and other components that are common to flowers in other plant species. [4] Supporting structures for the flower head and other structures below have evolved to draw pollinators through nectar as well as through patterns and colors that mimic the function of petals and other flower components in other flowers. It is the only plant genus that possesses all three types of photosynthesis—CAM, C3, and C4—all at once. [4]

Is Euphorbia a succulent or a cactus?

The plant genus Euphorbia (Euphorbia spp.) contains more than 2,000 species. Around 1,200 of them are succulents, some of which have odd shapes and broad, mushy leaves, while others remarkably resemble cactus and have spines. The genus’ plants are frequently referred to as spurge or euphorbia by growers.

With repeated additions and deletions of species and subgenera, Euphorbia is a somewhat ambiguous genus. The genus contains species that are annual, perennial, and biennial. There are species of herbaceous plants, woody shrubs, as well as deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. The presence of a milky white sap in the plants is the defining trait among the species.

Most of the euphorbia species utilized for landscaping or as indoor plants are succulents with interesting forms and foliage, but a handful are also prized for their blooms. The poinsettia is one of the most well-known euphorbia species that is not a succulent.

The majority of euphorbias flower in the spring or summer and hibernate over the winter. Most species should be planted in the spring, when the risk of frost has gone, however houseplants can usually be started at any time. The growth rates of the species range from slowly to rather swiftly.

Euphorbia is poisonous to dogs, cats, and humans in all forms. Each plant species has a different amount of toxicity.

Why is a plant called a Euphorbia?

A genus of flowering plants in the spurge family is called Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae). One of the biggest genera of flowering plants, Euphorbia contains approximately 2,000 different species, from diminutive annuals to enormous, long-lived perennial trees to deciduous shrubs. Some of the most recognizable euphorbias are poinsettia plants.

Plants native to Euphorbia are tough, hardy, and simple to cultivate in a variety of hardiness zones. Euphorbia plants are wonderful complements to flower beds and rock gardens because of their colorful leaves and distinctive flower structures called cyathiums. As long as they receive the proper amount of light, euphorbias thrive as both indoor and outdoor plants. The majority of them hibernate during the winter and bloom in the late spring and early summer.

All Euphorbia plants are poisonous, right?

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of what I believe to be Euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae, sometimes known as wood spurge, in public areas, however crocus.co.uk claims it is poisonous if consumed and an irritant to the skin and eyes. Any suggestions? Because euphorbia sap makes skin photosensitive, handling it unprotected in the sun might result in blisters. To mention a few, celery, parsley, cow parsley, certain hogweed, and fig sap can also be poisonous. Other plants can irritate the skin; nettles, comfrey, sun or neem, for example, are the most evident.

Euphorbias are ubiquitous, exactly like cow parsley, and you couldn’t possibly pull them out with the best of intentions. The seeds from its berries are extremely deadly (just one can kill a kid), but a recent medication trial discovered that it can be very effective against skin cancer, and it may one day become a new drug. Euphorbias are one of those plants that can be both poison and cure in one.

We had dogs and a garden full of deadly plants where I grew up, but nevertheless we all managed to live. My mother warned us to stay away from certain foods and taught us what foods to eat and avoid, often acting out the dangers of certain plants (it took me years not to be terrified of daturas). It was advised to stay away from milky sap, which is a good general rule.

The outdoors is a wild, perilous, and fascinating place, and I believe it is much preferable to teach kids to respect it than to completely eradicate it.

Where would be the ideal location to plant a Euphorbia?

In general, euphorbias need a sunny location and rich, well-drained soil. Light types, meanwhile, can tolerate some shade and do well as ground cover around shrubs and trees.

How to plant euphorbias

Dig a deep hole when planting euphorbias that have been cultivated in pots and fill it with compost or leaf mould. Euphorbia should be planted firmly, then it should be watered well and mulched to keep moisture in and weeds out.

Here, Monty Don proposes two exceptional euphorbia species and provides planting instructions. Additionally, he offers advice on how to grow euphorbias from cuttings.

How to care for euphorbias

As long as the growing environment is favorable, euphorbias don’t need feeding or special care. After the blooms have faded, blooming stems should be pruned. However, gloves must always be used when working with euphorbias because their milky sap is hazardous if consumed and irritates the skin and eyes.

How to propagate euphorbias

Euphorbias can be grown by taking springtime cuttings. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sap.

By collecting cuttings of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii in the spring, you can learn how simple and gratifying euphorbia propagation is. Monty Don offers advice on how to maintain the cuttings’ viability, plant them, and shield your hands from the irritating sap:

There are a few key differences which I will break down:

Cacti are only indigenous to the New World, with the exception of the Rhipsalis baccifera. There are no cacti in Europe, Russia, Australia, nor in Africa or Asia (except for that one species of Rhipsalis). On the other hand, euphorbia are native to many regions of the world, although those from Africa and India are the most cactus-like.

Both cacti and euphorbias have prickles, however the prickles on each species are unique. All cacti have areoles, which are structures that serve as the source of the spines, which are modified leaves. The most common thorns on euphorbias are modified stems that are typically seen in pairs. Areoles do not exist in euphorbias.

Cacti and succulent Euphorbias both retain water for dry spells, but latex, a hazardous sap, is present in all Euphorbias. It is most likely a Euphorbia if you cut open a succulent and it weeps this white fluid.

Cacti and Euphorbias both produce flowers, however the blossoms are typically extremely dissimilar. Euphorbia blooms are often subtle, whereas cactus blossoms are frequently spectacularly colorful and striking. Flowers from euphorbia are frequently a light greenish-yellow tint. However, some Euphorbias, such as Euphorbia milii, have vivid flowers (Crown of Thorns).

So there you have it—in a nutshell, the similarities and differences between cacti and euphorbias. Next time you see a spiny succulent, you’ll be able to identify it as a cactus, a Euphorbia, or something else by taking a closer look.

What uses does the euphorbia plant have?

An herb is euphorbia. Medicine is made from the portions of the plant that are grown above ground.

Breathing diseases like asthma, bronchitis, and chest congestion are treated with euphorbia. It is also used to treat tumors, hay fever, throat spasms, and nasal and throat mucus. Some take it to make themselves throw up.

It is additionally employed in India to treat worms, dysentery, gonorrhea, and digestive issues.

Are humans poisoned by euphorbia?

The milky secretion of the Euphorbia plant, sometimes known as latex, is extremely poisonous and irritating to the skin and eyes. This study provides an illustration of the range of ocular inflammation brought on by unintentional ingestion of Euphorbia plant latex. Three patients came in with recently developed accidental ocular exposure to milky sap of a Euphorbia species. In all cases, there was a significant burning sensation along with vision blur. Visual acuity decreased to counting fingers from 20/60. Clinical findings ranged from anterior uveitis to secondary increased intraocular pressure, mild to severe corneal edema, epithelial defects, and keratoconjunctivitis. With active supportive treatment, all symptoms and indicators disappeared after 10 to 14 days. When handling euphorbia plants, wear safety goggles. Asking the patient to bring a sample of the plant for identification is usually advisable.

Trees, succulents, and herbaceous plants all belong to the Euphorbiaceae genus.

[1] There are numerous kinds of Euphorbia that can be found growing in the wild or in gardens or homes as cultivated examples. The milky sap or latex is poisonous and can cause severe skin and eye problems. From moderate conjunctivitis to severe kerato-uveitis, ocular toxic response can vary [2]. There are a few case reports of people losing their sight permanently as a result of accidentally putting Euphorbia sap in their eyes. [24] Corneal involvement typically proceeds in a predictable order, with edema getting worse and epithelial sloughing on the second day. [3,5] Some species are thought to be more poisonous than others. [6] The inflammation usually goes away without leaving any aftereffects when it is promptly treated and carefully maintained. Here, we show three instances of ocular toxicity brought on by three distinct Euphorbia species: E. trigona (African milk tree), E. neriifolia (Indian spurge tree), and E. milii (Crown-of-thorns houseplant).

Animals consume euphorbia, right?

And in other regions of the world, some species regularly consumes euphorbias as part of their diet, reportedly with little adverse effects.

How can Euphorbia be eliminated?

Since Euphorbia tirucalli, often known as the pencil cactus, tolerates extreme neglect like other succulents and readily takes root from a little slice, it could be challenging to kill and remove. Pencil cactus thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, but in colder regions, it withers away to the ground at the first sign of frost. The pencil cactus can reach a height of 30 feet when cultivated outside in the appropriate conditions. When removing pencil cactus, you should wear protective clothes to prevent skin irritation because the pencil-like branches contain a milky, deadly sap.

Use a pair of lopping shears or a pruning saw to make a clean cut through the main stem a few inches below the soil line. In order to reach the base, you might need to prune off a few of the lower branches. However, try to make as few cuts as you can to minimize the amount of sap that pours from the open wounds.

For one or two days, place the damaged plant on a hard surface apart from the soil to allow the sap to drain and the cut to heal and develop a callus. If the plant is a huge pencil cactus, cut it into multiple parts. Depending on the regulations in your neighborhood, dispose of the cactus with other yard garbage.

Apply a non-selective herbicide to the exposed trunk cut, such as one that contains around 25% glyphosate herbicide. Give the herbicide at least a week to reach the roots and completely kill the root system.

To ensure that the soil circle keeps as many of the roots as possible, dig a wide circle that is at least 12 to 18 inches away from the trunk. As you work to remove the roots from the earth, pull back on the shovel handle. Shake any extra soil off the root ball before removing it from the hole.

To get rid of any leftover roots from the pencil cactus, dig through the dirt. If the roots seem to go far beyond the hole where you removed the root ball, use a garden hoe or mattock to loosen the soil in a larger area. Throw away the root ball and its fragments.