Euphorbia decepta


No synonyms are recorded for this name.


E. decepta is native to South Africa. Its habitat are the ecoregions of Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo, where this species can be found growing on stony and loamy flats. Fortunately, E. decepta is still rather widespread and not threatened with extinction.


Euphorbia decepta is a peculiar, dwarf perennial plant, spineless and leafless. It instead consists in an untidy cluster of green, succulent stems, not taller than 8-10 centimeters, all sprouting from a primary, usually completely buried or partially buried, tuber-like stem called caudex. The finger-like stems usually develop on the lateral parts of the caudex, forming a structures that ends up to look like a crown. A caudex, in plant biology, is a modified stem used by plants from semi-arid climate regions to store water and nutrients and overcome the frequent droughts. In E. decepta, the caudex reaches 10 centimeters in diameter and comes off the ground in a resulting maximum height of 8 centimeters. In cultivated forms, the caudex can be more elongated and less tuber-shaped. The surface of this enlarged stem is leathery, it looks like a serpent’s skin, also because it’s divided by narrow furrows into geometrical patterns that look like scales. Its colour, and so the one of the finger-like stems, ranges from a bright, intense green to a darker, deep green, almost black. The finger-shaped stems, instead, are arranged in a crown-like structure, more or less candelabra-shaped according to the dimension of the central caudex: the smaller the caudex, the more candelabra-shaped is the stems arrangement. The surface of the stem is covered in tubercles that can be not so pronounced (like the above-mentioned “scales” of the caudex”), or more pronounced, up to look like nipples. At the center of each tubercle, a white areole is usually present, from which, sometimes, can develop some kind of aborted leaf-like organs.
Flowers, instead, are born in solitary peduncles that sprout from the axiles of the tubercles. These kinds of flowers and inflorescences are called, in botany, Cyathiums. A cyathium is a cup-shaped involucre bearing several minute stamens (male flowers) and a pistillate flower consisting of an ovary on a long stalk (pedicel).


E. decepta is a slow-growing plant. Apart from the patience required, however, it’s not so difficult to grow it. Here below are our cultivation tips:

E. decepta needs plenty of light to maintain its compact, lower form: shade usually make the stems more slender and elongated (they grow in height to seek for light). However, avoid direct light during the hottest hours of Summer days. Specimens grown in shaded condition should be moved gradually under direct sunlight, to avoid undesirable scorchings on the stem surface.
E. decepta should be sheltered in Winter or either put indoors, as it’s frost-sensitive and doesn’t stand temperatures below 10ºC.
Water it regularly all year round except in Winter, to keep its roots from rotting.
Choose a well-draining substrate, with an abundant mineral part to allow the fibrous root to have an optimal drainage. A mixture of peat and pumice will do good, for example.
They do not need frequent fertilizations. It’s sufficient to dilute the fertilizer with watering once a year.
Repotting is rarely necessary as mature plants tend to stay small. Once every 2 years will be sufficient. You can, however, repot any time you notice that the plant becomes much wider than the diameter of the pot.



The propagation of E. decepta can be carried out by cuttings or sowing. The easiest method is to remove an offset and use it as a cutting. It’s sufficient to cut or remove the offset, leaving it to dry up for a week, and replanting it in fresh soil, after the wound is healed. Remember always to wash out the latex that comes off the wound, as it’s toxic and it undermines the success of the cutting. As for the seeds, however, it will be necessary to check if your Euphorbia species is autofertile. If yes, the seeds will be available each season.


Cultivated plants must be handled carefully. All Euphorbias, in fact, contain a poisonous latex that makes them, for example, dangerous for pets and very young children. Many of them are used in the pharmaceutical field. The latex of E. decepta has also a very unpleasant smell.

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