Botanical name

Euphorbia ingens

Other names

Tree euphorbia, gewone naboom (Afrikaans); nkonde (Tswana);




A small to medium-sized, many-branched and dense tree with rounded crown, up to 10m in height; the shape has been compared to a hot-air balloon

Description of stem

Unlike other euphorbia tree species the branches do not die off as much (and leaving only a small crown), thus resulting in branches at lower level in E. ingens; uneven markings of the discarded branches on the grey lower trunk; smaller branches retain the typical four-angular appearance, young branches are green with irregular whitish marks in the hollows between the spiny ridges, four or occasionally five angled, small spines persist on younger branch ridges

Description of leaves

Absent, photosynthesis occurs in the younger branched stems

Description of flowers

Yellow, unisexual flowers occurring in April and May on the ridges of the terminal or youngest stem segments; pollinated by bees, butterflies and a variety of other insects; unlike several other euphorbias, E. ingens is monoecious, i.e. the male and female flowers occur on the same tree

Desciption of seed/fruit

Fleshy, globose to three-lobed purple capsule of about 1 cm in diameter, appearing up to September

Description of roots




Propagation and cultivation

Transplants easily, also grown from seed, truncheons or cuttings; frost sensitive; best in sandy soil in full sun; fast growing


Fare better in areas with higher temperatures; cope with varying rainfall; drought resistant


The latex is used by the indigenous population for paralysing fresh-water fish in order to capture them; the latex is said to be used as a purgative, in treating dipsomania and cancer; overdoses have reportedly caused patients severe problems; honey from the nectar may cause a burning sensation in the mouth; birds eat the seeds

Ecological rarity

Common, not threatened, although since 2005 more reports of widespread dying off of E. ingens trees has been reported in different areas

Pests and diseases

There may be a recently introduced threat, not yet identified


The milky latex is toxic, causing skin irritation and sometimes blindness


On rocky outcrops, in woodland and often in sandy areas in bushveld


North West; Limpopo; Mpumalanga


South Africa; Mozambique; Swaziland; Botswana; Angola; Zambia; Zimbabwe; Tanzania; Malawi; Kenya