Everyone has seen spurges, both at the florist’s and in the wild. More than two thousand species are to be found throughout the world on all the continents. Most are ‘normal’or shrubs but quite a few, more exactly about 440 species, have developed into succulents as an adaptation to their environment.
Some are very common in households, for example Euphorbia milii, the Crown of Thorns, with striking scarlet ‘’ (these, however, are not petals but scarlet bracts surrounding the actual, inconspicuous flowers). Other succulent spurges, however, are still waiting to be ‘discovered’ for room decoration; to date they are more likely to be found in botanical gardens than at the florist’s. One such plant is the very undemanding species from Cape Province – it looks like a cactus, because the body is divided into approximately 12 ribs with toothed edges from which grow long, hard thorns. The plant is a slow grower so there is no need to fear that it will soon reach the dimensions it does with age in the wild or as do the decades-old specimens. In botanical gardens it may reach a height of 1 m (3 ft), but these plants are several decades old. In Cape Province it grows at elevations of approximately 1,100 m (3,620 ft) in rock crevices, between stones and on steep slopes amidst low bushes, generally in groups.
In cultivation Euphorbia horrida is a very rewarding plant that tolerates the dry and warm atmosphere of the home. In winter it has a rest period, at which time the temperature should be reduced, but this can be done without if the plant is provided with plenty of light. Propagation can be by cuttings, but the better method is by means of seeds.
If you would like to enlarge your collection of ‘cactus-like’ spurges by adding small, spineless specimens, two similar species — Euphorbia obesa and E. meloformis are, ideal. Both grow to a height of about 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) and are native to the same region as the plant, which means that they have the same requirements in cultivation, in other words they are equally undemanding.