One of my pandemic pastimes has been learning about succulents. I started with cacti and now I have moved on to succulents (to be clear, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti). All succulents are defined as water-storing plants, for the word “succulent” comes from Latin word “sucus,” meaning juice or sap.
I’ve started my succulent journey at the beginning of the alphabet, so without further ado, here are some of my favorite succulents in the “E” family, specifically Euphorbia. Most photos and info come courtesy of the World of Succulents website. (“A” list here, “B/C” list here, Cacti list here)
Here’s some info about the Euphorbia family:
- Euphorbia is a huge genus composed of plants with milky sap. Those that are succulents range from marble-size spheres to 30-foot trees. Some species resemble cacti and are comparably efficient at storing water.
- Euphorbias thrive in mild, dry climates.
- What appear to be flowers on euphorbias are actually bracts that surround tiny flowers (this is true of all euphorbias, including poinsettias).
- Milky sap that oozes from the cut stems or trunks of euphorbias can cause a skin rash and eye irritation so severe it sends the victim to the hospital. Wear gloves and eye protection when pruning euphorbias, and don’t plant where children or dogs play.
specimen: Euphorbia obesa, “Baseball Plant.” Native to So. Africa. It is found growing in full sun or (more frequently) under the protection of low shrubs and sometime among low boulders in fairly sandy soils. Its colors blend so well with the surroundings that it is often quite difficult to distinguish it. The habitat is very stony and hilly with summer rainfall falling mainly in thunder showers. more info, more info.
specimen: Euphorbia tulearensis. Native to Madagascar. Grows on rocky limestone cliffs. An adorable little succulent plant that develops a wooden tuberous caudex with a crown of short to elongate fat branches. It is one of the rarest of the Madagascan euphorbias and not common in cultivation. It eventually becomes a small shrubby bonsai-like bush. The Euphorbia tulearensis growth form illustrates the typical horizontal habit of most Madagascan euphorbias. more info, more info.
specimen: Euphorbia obesa subsp. symmetrica “Stone Spurge” Native to So. Africa. This plant can look nearly identical to Euphorbia obesa, but rounder, flatter and not growing as tall. It has usually more, somewhat different, markings. The flowers are also more numerous with several from each point of origin, it has as well a distinctive long taproot. more info, more info.
specimen: Euphorbia lomelii, “Slipper Plant.” Native to Sonora, Mexico. Green, jointed, mostly unbranched, upright and straight, or undulating, coated with wax, photosynthesizing. No thorns. The stems may become reddish when exposed to temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s over several weeks. New stems rise from the edges of the root crown. more info, more info.
specimen: Euphorbia platyclada, “Dead Plant.” Native to Madagascar. A fleshy succulent plant with weird flattened mottled red-brown stems radiating from a raiseable heavy rootstock… nothing green about it. The branches are very interesting, with an irregular scab like texture, and look dead, or at the very least zombified. more info, more info.
specimen: Euphorbia inermis, “Medusa’s Head.” Native to So. Africa. A properly grown plant is a joy, especially when it is in flower, for then each short, erect finger is covered with fragrant, pure white (or yellow) flowers that look like snow crystals and the cluster is exquisite. more info, more info.
specimen: Euphorbia flanaganii f. cristata, “Green Coral.” Garden origin (Nursery produced cultivar). . The central stem merges into roots forming an tuberous body (often called a caudex) with branches radiating from it. If you look down into a large specimen you’ll see what looks like a sun flower; it’s another example of a Fibonacci spiral. more info, more info.
specimen: Eulychnia castanea cv. varispiralis spiral form. Garden origin. It is a variable cultivar of which we can distinguish at least four basic growing forms: Columnar monstrous form, Columnar discoidal form, Columnar spiral form, Crested form. Each plant is unique and different. more info, more info.