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Euphorbia caput-medusae (Medusa's Head)


Scientific Name

Euphorbia caput-medusae L.

Common Names

Medusa's Head, Medusa Head


Euphorbia commelinii, Euphorbia fructuspini, Euphorbia geminata, Euphorbia medusae, Euphorbia parvimamma, Euphorbia tessellata, Medusea fructus-pini, Medusea major, Medusea tessellata

Scientific Classification

Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Euphorbioideae
Tribe: Euphorbieae
Subtribe: Euphorbiinae
Genus: Euphorbia


Euphorbia caput-medusae is a unique succulent plant, up to a foot (30 cm) tall, with central tap-rooted caudex up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. On the top of the caudex emerge numerous snake-like, gray-green, bumpy-textured branches. They are up to 3 feet (90 cm) long with a knobbed terminal end where small deciduous leaves are produced. White flowers bloom on short stalks rising from the ends of young branches in the spring and summer.


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 they cannot tolerant 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 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.


Euphorbia caput-medusae is native to South Africa (occurs in and around Cape Town).


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