Euphorbia characias

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Euphorbia characias
Euphorbia characias RJB.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Euphorbia
E. characias
Binomial name
Euphorbia characias
Euphorbia characias

Euphorbia characias, the Mediterranean spurge[2] or Albanian spurge,[3] 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.


It has 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 water table, both in flat as well as in mountainous terrain. This plant can also resist high salinity.[5]


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.


Euphorbia characias is valued as an ornamental plant for its ability to survive drought and its groundcovering capabilities. It is suitable for any location, sheltered or exposed, in light soil in full sun. It is fully hardy down to −10 °C (14 °F).[4]


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:-[7]

  • 'Portuguese Velvet'[8]
  • ‘Tasmanian Tiger’[9]
  • ‘Whistleberry Garnet’[10]
  • E. characias subsp. characias ‘Blue Hills’[11]
  • E. characias subsp. wulfenii ‘Jimmy Platt’[12]
  • E. characias subsp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'[13]


This plant also has uses in traditional medicine; like many other species of genus Euphorbia[14] 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. ^ a b RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  5. ^ Espècies d'habitats allunyades del freàtic
  6. ^ Mediterranean Landscaping
  7. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 38. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  8. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Euphorbia characias 'Portuguese Velvet'". Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  9. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Euphorbia characias 'Tasmanian Tiger'". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  10. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Euphorbia 'Whistleberry Garnet'". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  11. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Euphorbia characias subsp. characias 'Blue Hills'". Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  12. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii 'Jimmy Platt'". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  13. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'". Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  14. ^ Lletereses (in Catalan)

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