All plants respond to different prevailing living conditions of time and place to keep alive, sometimes ending up in unusual shapes. Higher branching of one stem only was observed in this Euphorbia heptagona, seen in stony veld in the Kammanassie.
A complete “personal” history of particular events over a lifetime almost never exists for any plant in the veld. Such a record would have shown an unbroken logical sequence of all earlier growth responses to all impacting conditions, ending in this shape.
Stem base markings indicate where branches had dropped off in picture. This is proof of a very different, more conventional structure the plant had earlier. Plant shape is always a function of time, for growth is a must and life is drama in momentary transformation, at normal speed or in slow motion.
Identity, or that which one is, remains stable in some respects, as well as changes dynamically in others, in all the becoming of a lifetime. The species determines the range of possibilities. Wordsworth's "the child is father of the man" is a thought-provoking paradox, also in the world of plants.
Fluctuating fortunes impact on the resultant appearances of every era or life phase of every specimen uniquely. This brings another paradox: specific uniformity contrasts with individual differences and ultimately uniqueness.
In other words, every plant continually keeps alive and reproduces as best it can. To achieve this, it uses the inherent potential of its species for as long as it can, with no deviation from best usage of its opportunities at all times. This is true amidst evidence of particular outcomes in appearance not shared with its mates; the impact of the environmental variables, and variable they are!
The statement is a botanical version of the adage that life happens while we’re making other plans. Or not, for where’s the mastermind in a plant?