Euphorbia sikkimensis

Euphorbiaceae consists of about 320 genera and between 7500 and 9000
species, making it one of the largest plant families. The family is
for the most part comprised of herbs, but it includes several tree and
shrubby species among its ranks as well. Though the majority of
species are native to either southeastern Asia or the tropical regions
of the Americas, the family is quite broadly distributed, ranging into
southern Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa as well. In general,
specimens bear alternating leaves along with monoecious (i.e.,
separate male and female) flowers, and fill their stems with a toxic sap of milky-white latex. The family is perhaps best known for the raw materials that one of its genera (Hevea) offers to the production of rubber.

Euphorbia, which is named for the ancient Greek physician Euphorbus,
is a diverse genus of over 2000 annual and perennial herb, shrub, and
tree species for which, historically, humans have found a number of ornamental and
medicinal uses. The genus, first described by Linnaeus in the 18th
century, occurs mainly in the dryer regions of the tropics and is
particularly diverse in Africa. Though different habitat and climate
conditions have caused Euphorbia species to undergo divergent
evolution, many of these African species find similarly succulent
(water-retaining) counterparts in southwestern North America and in
Madagascar. The genus’s common name, spurge, emerged from the medieval
and early modern use of several species’ sap as purgatives.

Euphorbia sikkimensis, the plant featured in today’s photo, can grow
to about 90 centimetres in colonies of herbaceous, mostly unbranched
stems arrayed with alternating, conspicuously midribbed leaves of dark green. In the early summer months, the plant crowns
itself with a series of bright red buds that later erupt into
softly-leveled, star-shaped inflorescences of lime-green and vivid
yellow. The species is native to the elevated forests and alpine
meadows of southeastern Asia (India, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal),
and its root is commonly put toward medicinal ends. Our plant is sited
near the entrance of the David C. Lam Asian Garden, and came to us in
1978 from Hillier Nursery.

Euphorbia sikkimensis

12 responses to “Euphorbia sikkimensis”

  1. Meg Bernstein

    How pretty, green on green. Magical.

  2. James Singer

    I would think the genus is best known for the poinsettia [Euphorbia pulcherrim]. Or, in the southeaster US, for the popular landscape plant, crown of thorns.a

  3. Annie Morgan

    my thoughts exactly!

  4. John Story

    I thoroughly enjoy seeing plants both common and exotic. My only suggestion would be to have the “Photo of the day” be re-named “Photos of the day” and would continue to include only one plant, but have one photo be a close-up of the inflorescence and the other a distance shot to get an idea of the habit, size and scale of each daily offering.

  5. Jeani

    good idea – John

  6. Lj

    How orderly nature is and spiritual in a sense, as well. This looks like a bright green mandala to me. I like the subtlety of the photo.

  7. ajbroome

    What does “softly-leveled” in this context mean?

  8. Stephen Coughlin

    My thought with the description to which you refer related primarily to the amount of space in between each level of foliage: rather than pressing firmly against each other and thereby forming a single, crowded complex, each level remains distinct and lightly removed from the levels that surround it.
    Sorry if that wasn’t the best way of putting it.

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    this lovely plant can be found on
    the forums year 2004-and on other sites
    as a full plant- and other images
    thank you steve is this the same 2004 plant

  10. zeb

    “softly leveled”, very poetic

  11. AL

    my husband was thorned by this plant, he got wheals all over his body after, does anyone tell me if its dangerous as i read that this plant is an irritant or its milky latex is very poisonous

  12. John Story

    Most Euphorbia can cause skin irritations. On me it acts like poison ivy on skin. In addition, latex from most, if not all Euphorbia causes a burning if it comes in contact with mucous membranes such as eyes, mouth, nose and other private parts. Some Euphorbia are extremely poisonous but those generally are not in the trade very often. Seems the more one is exposed to the latex, the more sensitive to it one becomes.

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