Euphorbia stellispina

Synonyms:

Euphorbia astrispina

Habitat:

E. stellispina is native to Cape Provinces, South Africa. It can be found from Central Karoo to Namaqualand. This succulent grows in hilly and rocky regions, its color allow the plant to blend into its habitat. The plant can grow in full sun and with high average temperatures, and is used to variable rainfall.

Description:

E. stellispina is a shrub succulent of the Euphorbiacee botanical family. The plant has a columnar habit and can reach up to 15 cm in diameter and up to 70 cm in height. Usually the plant branches at the base and can reach clumps of 20 branches. The stem is arranged in 10-16 ribs, is dark green and covered with star-shaped red-brown spines. Ribs are obtuse with short rounded tubercles separated by transverse grooves. Leaves are very small and soon drop off, but there is the stem that can photosynthesize. Ciathya 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. Flower are borne at the apex of the stem along the top of the angles of the ribs. E. Stellispina 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 plant is a slow growing succulent but quite easy to cultivate. For this succulent the best sun-exposure is direct sunlight, so you can place it outdoors. 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 should be done thoroughly: during the vegetative period you can water regularly 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 during the growing season with the specifics fertilizers for cacti; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Handle the plant carefully and wear gloves because the latex it exudes is toxic. The plant can tolerate temperatures as low as -5°C but it is better for the plant not to below 8 C°.

Propagation:

Propagation can be done by seed or cutting. By seed is not very simple to propagate the plant because the germination occurs within 2 weeks, 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 the offsets during the spring. Cut an offset 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. To increase success of propagation you can cut two or more offsets at the same time. For cuttings is recommended temperatures around 20 °C.

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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