Euphorbia cyparissias L. - Cypress Spurge

Euphorbia cyparissias plant

Family - Euphorbiaceae

Stems - To +30cm tall, from creeping rhizomes and stout roots, erect, herbaceous, with milky sap, green, terete, multiple from the base, simple except in the inflorescence, glabrous.

Euphorbia cyparissias stem

Leaves - Alternate, sessile, dense on the stem, spreading, to +/-3cm long, 2-3mm broad, linear, entire, rounded to acute at the apex, with a single midrib, dark green or with a reddish-purple tinge, glabrous. Margins slightly revolute.

Euphorbia cyparissias leaves

Inflorescence - Terminal umbel with 10 or more main rays. Flowers terminating the dense branches of the inflorescence. Branches of the inflorescence glabrous, the main ones to +2cm long. Pedicels of the flowers glabrous and very short (1-2mm long). Flowers subtended by an involucre of 2 bracts. Bracts green to yellow, reniform, glabrous, cupped around the flowers.

Flowers - Cyathia greenish to yellow, 2-3mm long, with 4 yellowish glands at the apex. Glands 1-1.5mm broad, 1mm long, with 2 horn-like projections at each end. The projections .5mm long. Tissue of the cyathia between the glands erose. Ovary partially exserted beyond the cyathia, 3-sided, with 3 locules (one ovule per locule), -1mm long and broad in flower, on a stalk to 1mm long, both stalk and ovary green, glabrous. Styles 3, united in the basal 1/3, 1mm long, green, glabrous, divided at the apices into 6 stigmas. Stamens many, included or partially exserted from the cyathia. Filaments white, glabrous, to 2mm long. Anthers green, bilobed, .7mm broad, .5mm long.

Euphorbia cyparissias flowers

Flowering - April - August.

Habitat - Cultivated and escaped to fields and roadsides, also found around old homesites.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Other info. - This attractive species can be found cultivated throughout much of Missouri and is persistent around old homesites and cemeteries. Since the plant rarely produces viable seed, it has not become more widespread and weedy. The plant grows easily from a rhizome cutting and requires little care once established.
Steyermark wrote that the plant was used medicinally but poisoning occurred in cases of overuse.

Photographs taken in Barry County, MO., 4-5-04.


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