Euphorbia erythraeae f. variegated
Euphorbia erythraeae f. variegated is native to Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan where the plant can spread up to 1400 m of altitude. The variegated form has garden origin.
Euphorbia erythraeae f. variegated is a treelike succulent belonging to the Euphorbiaceae botanical family. The plant has an erect columnar habit and can reach up to 9 m in height and 90 cm in diameter. The stem is short and thick, becomes woody with age and numerous braches depart from it. The stem is quadrangular, arranged in 3-8 undulate ribs, dark green in color. In the variegated form the epidermis is smooth and pale green to yellowish in color. The variegation is due to the loss of the ability to produce chlorophyll in some tissues of the plant, so that this tissue is no longer green. Chlorophyll-free tissues are usually white or pale yellow coloured (due to carotenoid pigments) in contrast to the normal green tissue. The spines are inserted in pairs along the edge of the ribs, they are short and dark brown. The leaves are short, lanceolate and are present only at stem tips. Blooming occurs during the summer and the flowers start between the spine pairs. Cyathia are the typical inflorescence of the Euphorbia, it is an inflorescence consisting of a cuplike cluster of modified leaves enclosing unisexual flowers. This species has small, light yellow cyathia normally being all male on some plants, or all female on others. Because there are male plant and female plant, cross pollination is required that is normally carried out by insect. The fruits are fleshy, red containing smooth grey seeds.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The best sun-exposure is in bright place but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The plant does not like temperatures below 8°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice soil, clay and soil. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering is very important for this species and should be done well: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. You should repot the plant every 2 years in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs and sunburn that damage the stem.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
Species of the Euphorbiacee family normally if are damaged, exude a white milky sap, called latex. Many plants produce latex, but in the Euphorbiacee this latex is often poisonous and may irritate skin. The poisonousness is due to some alkaloids so it is best to keep the plants away from children or pets.
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