Euphorbia characias

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Euphorbia characias
Euphorbia characias RJB.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Euphorbioideae
Tribe: Euphorbieae
Subtribe: Euphorbiinae
Genus: Euphorbia
Species: E. characias
Binomial name
Euphorbia characias

Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean Spurge) is a species of flowering plant in the Euphorbiaceae family typical of the Mediterranean vegetation. It is an upright, compact evergreen shrub growing to 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) tall and wide, with many woolly stems and characteristic black or dark brown nectar glands in the cyathia, which are borne in dense spherical clusters, from spring to early summer.[2] The fruits are smooth capsules.

It is a tough plant, capable of resisting long periods of drought. It grows preferably in dry areas, often far away from the freatic sheet, both in flat as well as in mountainous terrain. This plant can also resist high salinity.[3]

Two main subspecies are found in different regions of the Mediterranean Basin. These often overlap in the western areas of distribution:

  • E. characias subsp. characias (s). From Portugal to Crete
  • E. characias subsp. wulfenii (Hoppe ex W.D.J.Koch) Radcl.-Sm. 1968 (s). From Southern France to Anatolia.

Garden cultivars are sold under the names "Black Pearl", "Thelma's Giant", "Lambrook Gold", "Silver Swan" and "Tasmanian Tiger", among others. They come in a variety of colors, from silvery grey and bluish green to greenish yellow. These garden varieties are valued in Mediterranean or desert landscaping for not being highly demanding and for looking good despite lack of watering in sunny areas.[4]

The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

  • 'Portuguese Velvet'[5]
  • E. characias subsp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'[6]

This plant also has uses in traditional medicine; like many other species of genus Euphorbia[7] its toxic white and sticky sap has been used to treat skin excrescences, like cancers, tumors, and warts, since ancient times.


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