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Euphorbia lactea (Dragon Bones Tree)


Scientific Name

Euphorbia lactea Haw.

Common Names

Mottled Spurge, Frilled Fan, Elkhorn, Dragon Bones Tree, Dragon Bones, Candelabra Spurge, Candelabra Cactus, Caper Spurge, Candle Stick Tree, False Cactus, Hat Rack Cactus

Scientific Classification

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


Euphorbia lactea is a succulent shrub or small tree with spiny, erect, much-branched stems. It grows up to 16.4 feet (5 m) tall. The stems and branches are ridged, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, triangular, or rhombic in cross-section. They are green with a conspicuously pale center, often with very ornamental whitish and lime green marbled marking and black paired thorns. Tiny leaves appear at the stem tips in summer, but they quickly drop, leaving the plants leafless most of the time.


USDA hardiness zone 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Euphorbias are very easy to care for. They 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 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 with a half-strength fertilizer monthly.

Euphorbia can be grown from seed, but they can be difficult to germinate (or even find). It is 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. See more at: How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia.


Native to tropical Asia, mainly in India.

Forms and Cultivars


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