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

Euphorbia characias (Mediterranean Spurge[2] or Albanian spurge[3]) is a species of flowering plant in the Euphorbiaceae family typical of the Mediterranean vegetation.

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.


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.[4] 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.[5]


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.[6]

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

  • 'Portuguese Velvet'[7]
  • E. characias subsp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'[8]


This plant also has uses in traditional medicine; like many other species of genus Euphorbia[9] its toxic white and sticky sap has been used to treat skin excrescences, like cancers, tumors, and warts, since ancient times.


  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". 
  2. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  3. ^ "Euphorbia characias". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  4. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  5. ^ Espècies d'habitats allunyades del freàtic
  6. ^ Mediterranean Landscaping
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'". Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  8. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'". Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Lletereses (Catalan)

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