Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

With today’s posting, we welcome summer student, Stephen Coughlin, whose duties include Botany Photo of the Day. This entry was written by Stephen and the photo was taken by Eric La Fountaine.

Euphorbiaceae (the spurge family), which consists of around 300 genera and 7500 species, is native to both the temperate and tropical climate zones. Euphorbia griffithii is a metre-high herbaceous perennial that hails from the eastern Himalayas to the mountains of Myanmar (Burma) and western China. It ignites into bloom in early summer. The cultivar 'Fireglow', which is more deeply coloured than the species, welcomes visitors at the entrance to UBC Botanical Garden with a series of chromatic juxtapositions simultaneously subtle and strong: on its floral bracts, rich reds mix with searing yellows and oranges as if on the palette of an Old Master, while the dark burgundy of the stem and the green of the waxy leaves lend further contrast and contribute to the intensity of the blazing blooms above. This intensity culminates in the fall, when the floral apparatus turns brick red.

The vividness of the bloom, which to some suggests a measure of resilience and assertion, is indeed matched by the vigour with which 'Fireglow' confronts its surroundings. The species is robust enough to withstand both hostile pollutants and the vast spectrum of weather conditions associated with Zones 4 through 9; E. griffithii tends toward the invasive, however, at least in garden situations. Paraphrasing renowned gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd, the species is aggressive, and its sustained struggles when matched with a similarly dominant species leave the gardener only to referee. In addition to these somewhat bellicose tendencies, 'Fireglow' has another menacing trick up its sleeve. While the plant’s capacity to repel the onslaughts of deer and other animals is undoubtedly a benefit in the garden, gardeners beware, for the milky sap that fills the stems of this beautiful spurge is toxic.

For those wishing to explore the plants of the Himalayas, Laboritoire
d'Ecologie Alpine has a searchable database, Flora Himalayan Database,
which provides links to other Himalayan flora resources (Original French).

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow'

20 responses to “Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’”

  1. Deo

    Excellently written and highly informative. Great work for the summer.

  2. mtn_laurel

    Welcome, Stephen! That was a lovely description – fun for those of us who are both plant geeks & word geeks 🙂

  3. Mike in the NC Mountains

    OK, great photo and excellent narrative. Sign Stephen up as an editor, contributor for this project and also for the UBC newsletters and publications before he is conscripted by some other literary endeavour.

  4. Sue Vargas

    Welocme Stephen! Nice wording.

  5. Beverley

    Euphorbia ew-for-bee-a The classical name after Euphorbus, physician to Juba, king of Mauritania.
    griffithii gri-fith-ee-ee After William Griffith [1810-1845], surgeon and botanist in India and SE Asia. Dictionary of Plant Names, Coombes

  6. Annie Morgan

    What can I add to the above!
    Great photo, Eric, and I look forward to more writing by Stephen.

  7. ajbroome

    I’d prefer less of the ‘chromatic juxtapositions simultaneously subtle and strong’ and more of the ‘metre-high herbaceous perennial that hails from the eastern Himalayas’ but that’s probably not going to be a popular viewpoint…

  8. joan

    I loved the chromatic juxtapositions and all that good stuff about deer “resistance.” Carry on!

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    welcome stephen
    fine write up – eric’s fine pictures
    intersting plant and fine links
    i live on the west central gulf of florida
    99degrees of heat here today
    middle of june! but the ixoras
    flame of the woods are in bloom
    thank you bev too

  10. Margaret-Rae Davis

    Thank you for such a lovely photo. The colour is so nice. I do like what is writen about the Euphorbia “Fireglow”.
    Thank you,
    Margaret-Rae

  11. Tanis

    this is a great plant but it is a bully it needs lots of room…

  12. Michael F

    A nice piece about a nasty invasive poisonous plant!

  13. jan

    Great write up and a plant I have in my garden. I would like to know how I can make it be invasive though as it is steadfastly refusing to spread!

  14. joshua

    how do plants grow

  15. MOLCOM

    HOW DID U GRW THIS PLANTS?

  16. Eunice de Gruchy

    What a beautiful, poetic and vivid description of an unusual plant. And thanks for the warning about its agressivity; after Forget-Me-Nots, I would never again plant an invasive species. Lucky UBC to find such a gifted writer. Best of luck, Stephen!

  17. Denis

    On a scale of agressiveness, I would rank it only a 7 out of ten. I just divided mine. After four years, it went from a #1 nursery pot to a clump of about half a meter E-W by less than a meter N-S.
    It did not seed around and it did not send up runners a great distance from the main clump. Clearly, it is a vigouruous plant, but I would judge it necessary to check its spread once every 3-4 years in situation of unrestricted growth. It might require even less if stricted by being placed in corner of a bed or where a sidewalk meets a foundation.
    It is good to warn of the toxicity of the sap; although, I think most gardeners have come to expect that white sap indicates one should be cautious, wear gloves and, as I just did, wash up to the elbows after your work with the plant is done. As with most toxins, the sensitivities vary. I experience only mild irritation with prolonged contact with Euphorbia sap. My wife has a much stronger and immediate reation, thus the task of downsizing the plant fell to me.
    If anyone in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan reads this and area would like some, let me know because I now have several starts to dispense with on a first come, first serve basis. You can track me down throuth the Oregon Camellia Society.

  18. Connie Hoge

    I love this plant for here in the Pacific NW! It survives snails, slugs, drought, wet, moles & lasts throughout the summer into fall! I find that it prefers to grow in clumps, sending up shoots that can be dug to start new plants~

  19. Thetis

    Gardeners beware, this plant has milk ( latex) that is highly toxic.
    My daughter got tiny drop on her hand which burned. After washing her hands a small amount of residue got into one eye and caused majoy havoc requiring a trip to emergency.

  20. ungaEw

    653334 547010Some genuinely wonderful information , Gladiola I identified this. 442040

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