Euphorbia balsamifera

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Euphorbia balsamifera
Euphorbia balsamifera (Garafía) 01.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. balsamifera
Binomial name
Euphorbia balsamifera

Euphorbia balsamifera is a plant in the Euphorbia genus. It is distributed from Arabian Peninsula to Sahara and Canary Islands. It is the vegetable symbol of the island of Lanzarote.[1]


The plant varies greatly in height. It can be described both as a bush slightly rising above the ground, or as a middle-sized 5 meters tall tree. The form of stems and leaves also differs.

The stem of the plant is 1 centimeter in diameter, semisucculent and has no spines on it. It is covered with transversal leaf-scars. The color of the stem varies from gray to terra-cotta. It is branchy at the base, gradually becoming knotty and very thick.

The leaves are 80 millimeters long and 4–8 millimeters wide. They are green and glossy, sessile, varying in shape from linear-lanceolate to long oval ones, clustered at the tips of the stems.

The inflorescences are terminal cymes, usually reduced to a single semi-sessile 6 millimeters wide cyathium placed on each stem. The color of pseudo-petals is yellowish green.

The fruit of the plant is a green large capsule 10 millimeters long and 9 millimeters wide, pinkish-reddish-green when ripened. It is shallowly lobed, smooth or hairy and semi-sessile.


Its habitats are the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Southern Saudi Arabia, Yemen), Morocco, Western Sahara, Chad, Somalia, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, the Canary Islands.[2]

The tree grows 800 meters above sea level in dense communities on rocky grounds and sandy dunes (except for extremely mobile dunes) in plains among other succulent plants.


Milky latex of Euphorbia balsamifera is poisonous like in other euphorbia species, but it is not so caustic. It is widely used in dentistry as anesthesia for acute dental pulpitis treatment.

There were times when the Canary Islands inhabitants used milky latex of Euphorbia balsamifera as a beverage like cow milk. Or it was also boiled and used in jelly making, which was considered a delicacy.

The majority of the Canary Islands fields are surrounded by Euphorbia balsamifera forming a hedge. This prevented pest attacks and soil erosion. These plants are also well used for strengthening of mobile sand dunes.

Euphorbia balsamifera tastes rather good and thus is used as food for livestock.

Also Euphorbia balsamifera is often popular among potted plants collectors. Potting the plant they grow mid-tall bush with round-shaped branches and a short juicy stem. Usually the plant is not very tall when culturally cultivated.

See also[edit]


There can be distinguished two subspecies of the plant:


External links[edit]