Euphorbia stellata

Synonyms:

Euphorbia gilbertii
Euphorbia lombardensis
Euphorbia mamillosa
Euphorbia micracantha
Euphorbia procumbens
Euphorbia radiata
Euphorbia squarrosa
Euphorbia uncinata

Habitat:

E. stellata is native to South Africa: Cape Province and Eastern Cape.

Description:

E. stellata is a geophytic succulent of the Euphorbiacee botanical family. The plant has a woody thick caudex turnip-shape that can reach 15 cm in depth and 8 cm in diameter. Long and dense branches arise from the top of the caudex. Branches are flat, prostrate, with 2 ribs, bright green with dark green stripes. Margins has two rows of tooth which bear short brownish spines. The blooming occurs in spring-summer and each branch bears a small greenish-yellow Ciathya. Ciathya are the typical inflorescence of the Euphorbia, it is an inflorescence consisting of a cuplike cluster of modified leaves enclosing unisexual flowers. E. stellata, like other Euphorbias, has a particular way of spreading its seeds: the fruit is a slight 3-angled capsule that when ripe explodes and shoots away the seeds it contains. Seeds are small, rounded and light so as to favor the propagation up to a few meters away and have a more uniform spread over the territory.

Cultivation:

This is a slow growing succulent but quite easy to cultivate. For this succulent the best sun-exposure is light shade, and the plant does not like temperatures below 10 °C so it needed to be placed indoors. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. Remember to use perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly from March to November: 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 to the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a very fast and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specifics fertilizers for cacti; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. The pot should be quite large and deep because the root is large and tuberose. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Handle the plant carefully and wear gloves because the latex it exudes is toxic. If the caudex will be covered the growth will be lush and fast, although if the caudex is exposed to sunlight the vegetation will reduce in size.

Propagation:

Propagation can be done by seed or cutting. By seed is not very simple to propagate the plant because the germination needed temperatures between 20-30 °C; during the spring-summer you can sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with high level of humidity. By cutting you can use leaf cuttings. Cut the leaves as close as possible to the stem and then let it 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. With Euphorbias is advisable to use rooting hormone at the base of the cut to energize root development. To encourage the production of the offsets you can make a cut at the base of the branches.

Curiosity:

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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