Meet the Euphorbiaceae

Poinsettias_20091218_PLH_5602

I can guarantee that you are familiar with at least one member of the plant family Euphorbiaceae. Especially at this time of year, we decorate our halls not just with boughs of holly, but with Poinsettias. Typically bright red, you can now purchase plants with flowers in shades of white and peach, and even a variegated combination.

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Leafy Spurge? Noooo!!!

Jean K. Tool SWA along I-76 to Brush LAH 015

What grows one to three feet high, has small blue-green leaves, clusters of pretty yellow flowers, and is a stubborn, nasty, and aggressive noxious weed that is supported by an extensive system of underground stems? Probably the only good news is that it isn’t typically a weed in most landscapes, but if you’ve been out hiking much lately, you’ve likely encountered Leafy Spurge.

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Crown of Thorns

euphorbia-splendens_crown-of-thorns_blkforest_lah_6087Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day Jesus wore a crown of thorns.  In visualizing that painful headpiece, it helps me to think about the sharp spikes on the plant with the same name.

As the scientific name indicates, Euphorbia Milii is first cousin to other Euphorbias, including poinsettias, the wide variety of spurges, and Snow on the Mountain. All these species share common characteristics such as inconspicuous flowers surrounded by showy bracts, and a toxic, thick, milky sap. This latex can not only cause skin irritation, but if it comes in contact with a mucous membrane, extremely painful inflammation can result. Some species’ sap is even carcinogenic.

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