Euphorbia characias wulfenii
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.
The most commonly grown form of this Mediterranean native. Upright stems crowded with narrow blue-green leaves form a dome-shaped bush 4 ft. high and wide. Broad clusters of yellow flowers held in dense, round to cylindrical clusters appear in late winter, early spring. Color holds with only slight fading until seeds ripen; then stalks turn yellow and should be cut out at base, since new shoots have already made growth for next year’s flowers. Fairly drought resistant.
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