Euphorbia caput-medusae L.
Medusa's Head, Medusa Head
Euphorbia geminata, Euphorbia tuberculata, Medusea tuberculata
Euphorbia caput-medusae is a unique succulent plant that forms a rosette of numerous gray-green, snake-like branches from a short, thick, inversely conical stem. It grows up to 2.5 feet (75 cm) tall and 3.3 feet (1 m) in diameter. The caudex is up to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. Branches are ascending, club-shaped, tuberculate, and up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter, with soon deciduous leaves on tubercles at the tips. Leaves are fleshy, linear, up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long and 0.08 inches (0.2 cm) wide.
Many cyathia appear around the apex of each branch, each on a sometimes persistent, up to 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) long peduncle in the axil of the tubercles in spring and summer. They are up to 0.7 inches (1.8 cm) in diameter, with five green glands, each with 3 to 6 cream, often divided processes on the outer margin, covered with small protuberances.
The native range of Euphorbia caput-medusae is from Oranjemund in the southwestern corner of Namibia to the Cape Peninsula and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It grows on sandy flats and stony slopes among scattered bushes.
USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Euphorbias are very easy to care for. These plants require a little pampering to become established, but once they are, they are self-sufficient. In fact, more die from too much care and watering than from neglect. Euphorbias need well-draining soil and lots of sunlight. They are not particular about soil pH but cannot tolerate wet soil. Unlike most succulents, Euphorbia does not handle long periods of drought well. It may need weekly watering during the summer. Water whenever the soil is dry several inches below the surface. Water deeply, but don't let them sit in wet soil, which can cause root rot. Add some organic matter or fertilizer to the planting hole. If you are growing them in containers or your soil is poor, feed them with a half-strength fertilizer monthly.
These succulents can be grown from seed, but they can be difficult to germinate (or even find). They are usually propagated by cuttings. This can be tricky because of the exuding sap. Rooting hormone is recommended with Euphorbias. They tend to grow problem-free, but there are a few pests and diseases to be alert for.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia.
- Back to genus Euphorbia
- Succupedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus
Click on a photo to see a larger version.