The Euphorbia in our garden is a strange-looking but oddly beautiful plant – with a very ancient pedigree.
Euphorbia (which is actually the name of a whole genus of plants) was named way back in the year 12 B.C., by Egypt’s King Juba II (Anthony and Cleopatra’s son-in-law), after his Greek physician, Euphorbus. The good doctor recognized the plant as a “powerful laxative”, and this ability to “purge” led to the plant’s common name of “spurge”.
I wouldn’t want to try his remedy. Our plants (Euphorbia characias, subspecies Wulfinii) have a milky sap that is poisonous and caustic – causing skin irritation or even blindness if you accidentally rub your eyes. We always wear gloves when we’re working around it.
Not that our Euphorbia needs much work – it’s wonderfully undemanding. About the only care we ever give this hardy plant is to cut down the two-year old stems that have finished flowering, and tie up the tallest young stems to keep them from falling under the weight of their flowerheads.
And those flowerheads are definitely worth a close look (more photos below).
I love Euphorbia for the splash of yellow it brings in spring, and for the fact that even the slugs and deer leave it alone – for good reason!
More photos of our Euphorbia – click on any image to see larger view in carousel format: