Sunday, June 22, 2008

Euphorbia griffithii

Plant Of The Week #5, Griffith's Spurge

Martha Stewart and I have only one thing in common, we both like this Euphorbia. Generally called spurge or milkweed spurge, Euphorbia is a widely variable genus of of plants from tiny annuals to tropical trees. Your Christmas poinsettia is actually Euphorbia pulcherrima. (Which instead of being thrown out with the expired eggnog in February could grow into a 10' tall tree if you lived in say, Mexico or Hawaii...). Many euphorbias resemble cacti or succulents. Others release their seeds explosively. And they don't actually have flowers, but tiny fused bracts called cyathium. Cyathia may appear singly or in clusters and often it's the bracts below the cyathia that provide the color, as in the poinsettia. See, this is one cool genus of plants.

There are so many different Euphorbias commercially available in different colors and sizes that I'm still getting the hang of what's out there. So far, Griffith's Spurge tops the cool list.

Photos from Red Butte Gardens, Salt Lake City, UT.

Euphorbia griffithii tends to like sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Like all euphorbias it has milky white sap that can irritate sensitive skin or could possibly be toxic if ingested. Just don't plant it around your daycare center playground and you'll be just fine. I think it's just one of those things people feel they need to warn you about, like "Hey, it's dangerous to climb a ladder." Yeah, we know.

Griffith's Spurge is native to the Himalayas, gets about 36" tall and slowly spreads by creeping roots, but is not particularly aggressive. Long and narrow leaves are reddish orange when new, with green-orange stems. The "flowers" are reddish-orange, but variable. Cultivars include 'Fireglow' with even brighter orange leaves, cyathia, and stems; and 'Dixter', which grows to 24" ht. and has a darker green to pinkish leaf with less brightly colored cyathia. It's a perennial, dies back, and will grow in USDA Zones 5-9.

See, cool as ice.

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