Euphorbia tirucalli

Accession Count: 6
Common Name: firesticks
Family Name: Euphorbiaceae
Botanical Name: Euphorbia tirucalli
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Variety:
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Cultivar:
Characteristics: Euphorbia tirucalli is a perennial shrub with several loosely branching, pencil-thick, vertical stems (1). Stalks usually form fleshy green whorls, becoming yellow during the summertime, and returning to red in the winter (2). The cyathia inflorescence is located at the top of the branches, with large petal-like bracts that conceal tiny yellow flowers (1). Following are pale green capsule fruits that are covered with soft hairs (3).
Compound: Eup tir
Geographic Origin: Africa
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Natural History: Euphorbia tirucalli was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The genus, Euphorbia, was named in honor of “Euphorbus”, the first physician to King Juba of Mauritania, who created medicine from the plants within the genus (4). The specific epithet, tirucalli, was chosen by Linnaeus for the words used by the locals of Malabar in Southern India, tiru and kalli - tiru meaning “good”, and kalli referring to the medicinal qualities of the genus (5).
Cultivation Notes: Many landscapers desire Euphorbia tirucalli for its unique appearance and ability to become a striking accent or screening plant. However, it is toxic, producing a milky-white substance that is a serious skin and eye irritant. Always use gloves and protective eyewear when handling (3). 
Euphorbia tirucalli does not require any special care, tolerating all soil pH, but requiring that soil be well-draining (2, 3). Raise in full sun, with light humidity and protection from frost, and do not water during the winter, to imitate the plant’s natural habitat (4). Propagation can be easily done using cuttings, but care should be taken to protect from the toxic latex that is excreted from wounds. Propagation via seed is troublesome, as seeds are both difficult to acquire and germination rates are low (3).
Ethnobotany: Euphorbia tirucalli has been extensively used in medicine for a variety of ailments, including earache, asthma, warts, cough, and constipation. Additionally, E. tirucalli has been thought to induce childbirth, reduce sexual impotence and sterility, and even heal wounds. However, because of its toxicity, overdosing on E. tirucalli is very common, and it should never be used to treat children. In fact, the plant may worsen certain conditions – in Brazil, it has been used to treat cancer, but may actually be the cause of nasal tumors in affected populations (6). The poisonous latex produced by E. tirucalli can be converted into fuel, as the chemist Melvin Calvin suggested. His attempts to cultivate the species for the production of oil were unsuccessful, due to the yield being lower than assumed. However, it is still possible to create gasoline from E. tirucalli, albeit in small amounts (4).

Height: 6 - 10 feet
Width: 6 - 10 feet
Growth Rate: Slow Growing
Grow Season:
Flower Season: Summer
Color: Yellow
Function: Screen
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Toxic
Hardy: Tender
Water Use: Low water Use

Citations:
1. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved April 22th, 2020.
2. Gardenia. Retrieved April 22th, 2020.
3. World of Succulents. Retrieved April 22nd, 2020.
4. Unusual Seeds. Retrieved April 22nd, 2020.
5. San Marcos Growers. Retrieved April 22nd, 2020.
6. Plants for a Future. Retrieved April 22nd, 2020.
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Euphorbia tirucalli