April 2013 Plant Highlight: Euphorbia esculenta

by Brian Kemble


Euphorbia is a large and diverse genus, with many non-succulent species as well as succulent ones. Different groups within the genus look so dissimilar that it is hard to imagine they even belong to the same family, let alone the same genus, yet the flower structure shows that they do indeed belong together. One fascinating group is known as the medusoid euphorbias, all coming from southern Africa. They are characterized by having a central head out of which come many cylindrical arms, reminiscent of Medusa of Greek mythology with her head of snakes. One of these is Euphorbia esculenta.

Euphorbia esculenta

Euphorbia esculenta comes from the south-central part of South Africa, in an inland area which gets occasional freezes in winter. It is able to make it through our winters at the Ruth Bancroft Garden without injury, and has rewarded us by spontaneously re-seeding in the garden.


Euphorbia esculenta

Euphorbia esculenta is spring-blooming, usually beginning in early April. Its cyathia, the cup-like structures holding the flowers, are clustered at the ends of the branches. They resemble little tufts of cotton candy with the greenish-yellow stigmas, and the anthers with their yellow pollen, emerging from the wool.

After the flowers are pollinated, they develop pea-sized rounded shiny-green fruits bearing little tan or brown seeds. These are ejected explosively when the fruits ripen, so the seedlings can come up some distance away.

Euphorbia esculenta


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Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.  
Grant Funders

The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the following grant funders:

The Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position

The Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation and The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our directional signs

The California Horticultural Society for funding towards our restoration projects

The Bonita Garden Clubfor funding restoration and education projects


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