Euphorbia echinus


This name is a synonym of Euphorbia officinarum subsp. echinus. Other synonyms are:

Euphorbia echinus var. chlorantha
hernandez-pachecoi Caball.
Euphorbia officinarum var. hernandez-pachecoi


Euphorbia echinus is native to Morocco: in particular, it is endemic to the southwestern part of the country. It grows on coastal ecosystems or in plains, but also in montainous areas of Anti-Atlas. Its habitat are stony hillsides and gravelly-gritty slopes and in windy coastal areas.


Euphorbia echinus is a cacti-like shrub, compact, spherical, densely branched from the base. The shrub is formed by a myriad of perfectly erect, finger-shaped stems, identical to mini-cacti. This resemblance with cacti species is typical of many Euphorbias, though they are totally unrelated from a phylogenetic point of view. This is an example of what’s called, in ecology, “convergent evolution”: genera or even families of plants that develop similar morphological adaptations to cope with similar environmental conditions, which in this case are rocky, arid habitats. The little stems are bright green, up to 1 meter tall, 4-5 centimeters in diameter and rather upright. They are divided into 5 to 14 ribs (more frequently 5 to 8). Ribs are not so pronounced and, on their crests, spines are lined up. These thorns are slender, paired, sharp, half a millimeter apart, up to 2 centimeters long, greyish-white. Flowers, as in every Euphorbia, are called cyathia. A cyathium (cyathia in the plural form) is one of the specialised false flowers forming the inflorescence of plants in the genus Euphorbia. In Euphorbia echinus they are grouped in solitary cymes, forked growing in small groups at the top of the stems. Cyathia are 4-5 millimeters across and equipped with dark red nectar glands. The cyathia are enveloped by special structures that look like the petals of regular flowers, called cyathophylls, that, in this species, are dull red. The blooming period is wonderful: the bush become covered in a myriad of tiny little flowers, creating a wonderful, decorative effect.


Growing Euphorbia echinus is a breeze, it’s a tough plant and easy to take care of. First things first, give it a bright spot, it needs plenty of light to thrive, even direct sunlight for a few hours a day is fine, just avoid the hottest hours of the day in the summer to keep it looking its best.

When it comes to temperature, E. echinus is a subtropical species so it can handle temperatures as low as 5-8°C. Just make sure to keep its soil dry during the winter to prevent rotting.

When it comes to watering, during the spring and summer, water it regularly and often, it likes to stay moist. But in the winter and fall, hold back on the watering as E. echinus is a dormant winter species and doesn’t need it during this time.

Choose a well-drained soil mix for succulents, and for E. echinus, it’s best to use a mineral-based substrate like clay, pumice, or lava grit.

Fertilize once a year with a product that is high in phosphorus and potassium, and low in nitrogen. And dilute it to half the recommended dose on the label.

Repot E. echinus when it outgrows its pot, and choose a pot that’s just slightly larger than the diameter of the plant, about 1-2 centimeters wider. E. echinus grows slowly, so you don’t have to repot it every year. It will happily form a clump, but it’s also common to find it grown as a single stem, thicker than in its wild form.


The propagation of Euphorbia echinus can be achieved through both seed and cutting methods. To propagate via cuttings, it is recommended to use semi-hardwood stem cuttings. Prior to planting, it is important to thoroughly clean the cuttings by washing them in warm water to remove the exuded latex. Once cleaned, the cuttings should be allowed to dry for several days before being planted in a well-draining, sandy substrate that is kept consistently moist until root development is observed. Typically, root development can be expected to occur within a month. To promote rooting, the use of a rooting hormone is recommended. As Euphorbia echinus is a monoecious species, seed propagation is less commonly used as it may be more difficult to obtain viable seeds and to achieve germination.


The genus name “Euphorbia” was given after Euphorbio, who discovered these plants for the first time: he was the doctor of Giuba, king of the ancient Numidia and Mauritania. Euphorbia echinus, also known as the “African milk barrel cactus”, is a succulent plant native to southern Africa. Its name “echinus” comes from the Greek word for “hedgehog”, referring to the spiky appearance of the plant’s stem. This plant is a member of the Euphorbia family, which is one of the largest plant families in the world, with over 2,000 different species. Traditionally, the sap of this plant has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including skin conditions, eye problems, and even snakebite. The sap can be irritating to the skin and eyes, so it should be handled with care. 

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