Notices for Users of the Albums

1. New Albums and some changes


The latest genera Albums added to the Operation Wildflower Site are the ones on Tritoniopsis, Melianthus and Metalasia. This means that photos and stories of plants belonging to these genera already on the Site have been moved from the more general Albums called Bulbs and Shrubs into their own new Albums under Genera. 


There is a genus Album in every case where enough material has been accumulated to warrant a stand-alone grouping of photos and stories. There are now more than 160 such Albums on genera of South African plants. The biggest ones (most photos) belong to the genera Crassula, Euphorbia, Pelargonium and Aloe. Keep watching, more will be added! If there is no genus Album yet on the plant you are looking for, check under Types or the Search Box.


In order to access all items on a plant of interest, the Search Box should be used, entering the botanical name of the plant. Most photos and stories on a particular plant are likely to be posted under Genera, (or if there are only few of them, in the conglomerate categories under Types). Habitat, Regions or Parks and Gardens may also contain some material on a species searched for, showing in the list generated when using the Search Box. The latest Regions Album is the one on the Langkloof. A new Parks and Gardens Album for the Caledon Wildflower Garden has also been created from existing material.


2. Want to talk about an Album Item?


There is a new way of communicating with the Editor of this Site regarding any of the Album Items.
Comments, questions, corrections, information and suggestions can be put to the Editor by using the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Please ensure that the Album Item concerned is clearly identified. Type its exact title as well as the Album Name in the Subject Line of your email. Please also state your name.


Similarly, communication regarding the functioning or technical aspects of the Site can be directed to the Webmaster at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Euphorbia tirucalli

Botanical name

Euphorbia tirucalli

Other names

Rubber hedge euphorbia; Indian tree spurge; pencil tree; kraalnaboom (Afrikaans); aveloz (in Brazil)




A small, multiple branched, dioecious, succulent tree of about 5 m in height, although it sometimes reaches double that height

Description of stem

The younger stems are smooth, erect, cylindric, dense and green, becoming light grey to brown, rough and longitudinally fissured only in the lower, thick parts of mature plants; they are the dominant feature in the appearance of the plant; the slightest damage to the stems, or any other part of the plant, causes a poisonous white latex to emerge

Description of leaves

Leaves are usually absent or inconspicuous and falling early

Description of flowers

Inconspicuous yellow bracts hide the flowers at the apex of the upper branches (or axillary) in spring and summer; plants are dioecious

Desciption of seed/fruit

A small (about 8 mm in diameter), pink coloured and finely hairy, three-lobed,  but appearing globose capsule, appearing in summer

Description of roots



There is a variation with orange to yellow stem tips marketed by nurseries

Propagation and cultivation

Young plants are easily transplanted, also grown from seed or cuttings which must be allowed to dry out before planting


Grows strongly in dry areas in a variety of soil types; cannot withstand very low temperatures; salt tolerant, can be planted near a beachfront


Traditionally a hedge plant or living fence post for animals and protecting living areas; once thought to be a promising source of rubber and even resin and gasoline, leaving large abandoned plantations still to be seen in places in Africa, like the Rift Valley in Kenya, but tried in several places globally, so far with no success (Melvin Calvin, 1976 quoted in; also been harvested for charcoal; the toxic latex has been used as an insect repellent and a fish poison by dropping a severely bruised branch from which latex is exuding into the water near the fishes; it is regarded as a cure for impotence by some traditional populations, whilst elsewhere it has been used in treating syphilis, haemorrhoids and leprosy; experimentation regarding the treatment of cancer has been conducted

Ecological rarity

Common in a large part of Africa and thriving in harsh conditions, seeding itself widely in many parts of its distribution range

Pests and diseases



The latex can cause skin irritation, even dermatitis; it also causes temporary blindness and severely painful eye infection; Euphorbus was a first century AD physician to the king of Mauritania who used some Euphorbia plants in his medicines; tirucalli is a place in India where E. tirucalli was reportedly already in use in the time of Linnaeus in 1753 when his main taxonomic work was published; a comment exists according to which Burkitt's lymphoma is triggered in carriers of the Epstein-Barr virus by the E. tirucalli latex, causing tumours: i.e. avoid contact with this latex! (


Widely distributed in arid, tropical thorn to moist forest regions in Africa; in summer rainfall wooded areas of Southern Africa

Distribution (SA provinces)

Eastern Cape; Kwazulu-Natal; Mpumalanga; Limpopo


South Africa; Swaziland; Mozambique; Zimbabwe; Zambia; Malawi; Tanzania; Kenya; Uganda; Ethiopia (according to some records this plant is so widely spread and naturalised that its real origin is unknown)



Visitor Numbers

This week1761
This month1761

Item of Interest