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Euphorbia mauritanica (Pencil Milkbush)

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Scientific Name

Euphorbia mauritanica L.

Common Names

Golden Spurge, Jackal's Food, Pencil Milkbush, Yellow Milkbush

Synonyms

Euphorbia corallothamnus, Euphorbia mauritanica var. corallothamnus, Euphorbia mauritanica var. foetens, Euphorbia mauritanica var. lignosa, Euphorbia mauritanica var. mauritanica, Euphorbia mauritanica var. minor, Euphorbia mauritanica var. namaquensis, Euphorbia melanosticta, Euphorbia paxiana, Euphorbia sarcostemmatoides, Tirucalia mauritanica, Tirucalia paxiana, Tirucalia sarcostemmatoides, Tithymalus brachypus, Tithymalus flaccidus, Tithymalus mauritanicus, Tithymalus zeyheri

Scientific Classification

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

Origin

This species is native to South Africa (Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal) and Namibia.

Description

Euphorbia mauritanica is a succulent shrub with many fleshy, upright, pencil-thin branches that grow from a thick central root. It grows up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall and up to 6 feet (1.8 m) wide. Yellowish-green to grey-green stems are cylindrical with alternate leaf scar. The tiny leaves are present only on the tips of the young branches. Flowers are bright yellow and appear from winter to spring in a cluster at the ends of young branches.

The specific epithet "mauritanica" refers to Mauretania (present northern Morocco and western and central Algeria north of the Atlas Mountains), an ancient country in North Africa that existed as a tribal kingdom of the Berber Mauri people. Carl Linnaeus officially described this species in 1753, probably based on Dillenius' description of Tithymalus aphyllis mauritaniae.

How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia mauritanica

Light: Most Euphorbias are sun lovers, but some will tolerate partial shade. Place your indoor E. mauritanica on windows with southern or southeastern exposure. From spring to fall, you may place the pot on the balcony or in the garden.

Soil: Euphorbias require well-drained soil. They even thrive in poor, dry soils. Use a commercial mixture formulated for cacti and succulents or make your own potting mix.

Hardiness: High summer temperatures are not a problem for succulent Euphorbias, but minimum winter temperatures vary. E. mauritanica can withstand temperatures as low as 25 to 50 °F (-3.9 to 10 °C), USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b.

Watering: Succulent Euphorbias can survive drought, but that does not mean that they need it. From spring to fall, water when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry. Reduce watering in winter. Give your E. mauritanica just enough water to prevent wilting.

Fertilizing: Every Euphorbia will benefit from fertilizer. Plants in pots need regular feeding. Apply a balanced fertilizer in a 10-10-10 NPK formulation, diluted to 1/4 strength once a week during the growing season.

Repotting: Euphorbias will benefit from repotting, but they do not need to be repotted every year. When your E. mauritanica is outgrowing its pot, it is time to repot the plant in a larger pot and give it a fresh potting mix.

Propagation: The easiest and fastest method of propagation for many species is by using cuttings. Euphorbias can also be grown from seeds, but they can be difficult to germinate, even hard to find. The best time to take cuttings is in spring or summer. Sow the seeds in spring.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Euphorbia.

Toxicity of Euphorbia mauritanica

All Euphorbias produce a white milky sap that is toxic and can cause irritation to the skin and eye. It is best to keep your E. mauritanica away from children and pets.

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