Euphorbia infausta


The accepted name of Euphorbia infausta is actually Euphorbia meloformis f. falsa. Here below are the other existing synonyms:

Euphorbia meloformis
Euphorbia meloformis f. magna
Euphorbia meloformis subsp. meloformis
Euphorbia meloformis subsp. valida


Euphorbia infausta is native to South Africa, in particular from the western-cape province.


Euphorbia infausta is a small succulent plant, very appreciated by succulent enthusiasts because it looks like a cacti. Though the Euphorbia genus is totally unrelated to cacti from a phylogenetic point of view, Euphorbia plans had to develop a similar morphology to face similar environmental conditions, which are the semi-arid habitats of South Africa, such as the Great Karoo desert. This coping mechanism is called convergent evolution and is the reason why Euphorbia are often mistaken for cacti by unfamiliar succulent growers. Euphorbia infausta is indeed a little species forming little clumps of succulent stems, very similar to the ones of cacti. Its stem are ovoid to almost spherical, leafless and spineless. Spines, in fact, are only found in male plants, and they are actually the remains of the cymes (their inflorescences), hardened and often slightly curved upwards. Stems, like in cacti, are divided into ribs. In the case of Euphorbia infausta, the ribs are 2 to 8, vertical or spirally-arranged, not particularly deep and with vertically-lined white tubesrcles that look like the areola of cacti. Unlike in many other Euphorbias, the stem is coloured in a bright tinge of green. It has also some rudimentary leaves, soon falling off the stems, less than 5 millimeters big. Euphorbia infausta is a dioecious species: this means that there are male and female plant, with respectively male and female flowers. Male flowers are the above-mentioned oblong cymes, that stay on the plant even after the flower wither, while instead the female cymes are much shorter and deciduous after the decay of the flower. 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. They are enveloped by special structures that look like the petals of regular flowers, called cyathophylls. In Euphorbia infausta, the envelope of both the male and female cyathia is equipped with 5 glands and 2 lobes. Glands of female plants are smaller than those of the male plants. The fruit is instead a capsule.


Euphorbia infausta is a hardy plant that’s a breeze to grow. Here’s some tips to keep it thriving:

Place it in a spot with bright light, but avoid direct sun during the hottest parts of the day. Indirect or filtered light is best.
Make sure to keep it above 5-8ºC, it’s a subtropical species and can handle the cold pretty well. Keep the soil completely dry during winter to avoid rotting.
Give it a good drink of water during spring and summer, when it’s growing, but wait until the soil is completely dry before watering again. In the fall and winter, hold off on the watering.
Choose a well-drained soil, a mix for succulents works well.
Fertilize it once a year with a high-phosphorus, high-potassium, and low-nitrogen product. Dilute it to half the recommended dose on the label.
Repot it when it outgrows its current pot. Choose a pot that’s only slightly bigger than the plant, like 1 or 2 centimeters wider.


Propagation of Euphorbia infausta can be accomplished through both seed and cutting methods. However, the use of seeds is more common in this species. Seeds can be sown in the Spring or Summer. To obtain seeds, it is necessary to have both a male and a female plant for successful pollination. In contrast, cuttings can be taken from woody branches of the plant. Prior to planting, it is important to remove the latex by washing the cuttings with warm water, allowing them to dry for a couple of days before replanting in a light, sandy substrate that should be kept moist until roots have formed. This process can take about a month, and the use of a rooting hormone is recommended to increase the chances of success.


You might not know this, but the species name “infausta” means unlucky or unfortunate, referring to the toxic sap that the plant contains which can cause skin irritation. It’s known for its spiky green stems and unique shape.
As already mentioned in other botanical notes about Euphorbias, the name “Euphorbia” comes from the Greek word “Euphorbus,” which was the name of the Greek physician of King Juba II of Numidia (52-50 BC – 23 AD). Juba II named this genus in honor of his physician.  It is also a popular bonsai plant, and is grown in many parts of the world for ornamental purposes.

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