ISI 2003-24. Euphorbia stenoclada Baillon ssp. stenoclada

Euphorbia stenoclada is allied to the common milk bush, E. tirucalli (offered as ISI 2003-25), but, oh, how different it is. At this point our seedlings are reminiscent of snarling kittens that give an endearing preview of their mature ferocity. Unlike the smooth cylindrical stems of E. tirucalli, those of E. stenoclada are flattened and drawn out into sharp-tipped thorns. Both species grow into imposing shrubs or small trees that bleed with a rather virulent milky latex when injured, making either suitable for barrier plantings. HBG 89143, plants grown from seed collected Nov. 18, 2001, by Röösli & Hoffmann (1101) in the dunes around Lac Anony, Madagascar, where it grows with Uncarina roeoesliana, Commiphora lamii and Aloe vaotsanda. $8.50.


People who have experienced contact with the milky sap of euphorbias report a variety of unpleasant symptoms. On the skin it can result in blisters if not quickly dealt with. Even the vapors can result in stinging eyes and mucous membranes of the nasal passage, and sap in the eyes can cause temporary (or long-lasting) blindness. What all collectors of euphorbias should know—and what most medical professionals and poison control centers do not—is that the sap is not water-soluble but is fat-soluble. We have found the most effective method for cleaning it from skin or tools is to first rub it off with a vegetable- or mineral-oil-soaked towel, then to wash away the oil with soap and water. Insufficient research has been done to find lipid solvents that do not harm the eyes. Folk medicine claims that the juice of Aeonium lindleyi is an antidote for euphorbia sap, but no one has volunteered their eyes for a controlled experiment to prove its worth. When taking cuttings it is advisable to wear protective gloves, clothing and eyewear. If working for a prolonged period when the vapors are likely to be inhaled, a respirator fitted with organic chemical filters will prevent respiratory irritation.

Photo © 2003 by John N. Trager. Images may not be used elsewhere without permission.

Published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal, Vol. 75 (2), March - April, 2003