Crown of Thorns -
Christ Plant - Siamese Lucky Plant
Euphorbia milii = splendens
Spurge (Euphorbiaceae) Family
There exists substantial evidence that the species
is native to Madagascar and was brought to the Middle East before
the time of Christ.
The Crown of
Thorns plant is a woody, spiny, climbing succulent shrub with
shoots reaching a height of 6 feet. The leaves emerge primarily
on young growth, and the plant may defoliate completely if put
under moisture or temperature stress. Subsequent growth will
bear new leaves.
The fruit is a small fleshy berry.
The flowers show nearly all year, and especially in the
winter. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, but the brightly
colored modified leaves (bracts) found just beneath the flowers
Euphorbia - Euphorbus was the Greek physician of King Juba
II (about 50 BC to 19 AD) of Numidia (present day Algeria). King
Juba II was the first person to find a succulent-type Euphorbia,
and he named it after his physician. Milii
- named for Baron Milius, once governor of the island of Bourbon,
who introduced the species into cultivation in France in 1821.
Splendens - This older species name means splendid.
The common name alludes to the legend that the Euphorbia Milii
was worn by Christ at the time of his crucifixion and was made
from the stems of this plant. Interestingly, the stems are pliable
and can be intertwined into a circle.
The plant is a member of the Spurge family. It is a large
family, including such plants as the Poinsettia, Castor Bean,
the rubber-bearing plants of the genus Hevea, and the Cassava
(from which we get tapioca). Most members of the Spurge family
exude a sticky white sap (latex) from any cut surface. The latex
is found in special branching tubes called latex tubes.
The latex may produce a severe dermatitis on susceptible
individuals, much like poison ivy. Generally poisonous if ingested
in large amounts, the latex undoubtedly contributes to the protection
of the plants from herbivores (plant consuming organisms). The
latex of some species has been used for arrow poisons and to
stupefy fish for capture. Euphorbias are not planted near stocked
pools since the exudate from broken roots can be fatal to fish.
Despite its poisonous properties, in the past the latex had been
used for medicinal purposes. The common name for the family,
Spurge, comes from the same root as purge or expurgate, alluding
to its properties if taken internally.
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