Diverse genus of about 2,000 species, ranging from small flowery annuals to sculptural trees. The flower is technically a cyathium, consisting of fused bracts that form a cup around the much-reduced true flowers. Cyathia may appear singly or in clusters. In some cases, as with poinsettia (E. pulcherrima), additional bracts below provide most of the color. The fruit is usually a dry capsule that releases seeds explosively, shooting them up to several feet away. Many euphorbias are succulents; these often mimic cacti in appearance and are as diverse in form and size.
All euphorbias have milky white sap that is irritating on contact or toxic if ingested (degree of irritation or toxicity varies, depending on the species). Before using cut flowers in arrangements, dip stems in boiling water or hold in a flame for a few seconds to prevent sap bleed. All need well-drained soil.
From Europe and Turkey. Grows to 3 ft. tall and 1 ft.wide, with reddish green stems. Evergreen, 1–3-in.-long, dark green leaves have red undersides that turn darker red in winter. Greenish yellow flowers in clusters to 8 in. long at stem ends in midspring to early summer. Best in sun but tolerates some shade. ‘Purpurea’ has foliage heavily tinted purple.
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