Euphorbia tirucalli produces a milky, sticky substance when damaged which has a number of uses in the modern world. One of its most notorious uses was as a way of ‘burning off’ warts and blemishes on the skin. While not recommended by medical professionals, the sap of this branch is still occasionally used to remove skin tumours.
Primarily this plant grows across Africa, although it is very popular in Sri Lanka where it is known as Sinhala. It grows mostly in dry areas and is often grown for use as hedging borders for land or to feed cattle.
This hardy green shrub has brush-like branches and can grow up to 10m in height, although the average is around 5m. They can range in appearance from smaller, bush shapes to almost tree-like, with dark green branches and darker stems.
Euphorbia tirucalli can be planted virtually any time of year, although they prefer the ample sunshine and warmer temperatures of summer.
The Euphorbia tirucalli is a member of the Euphorbia genus which includes around 2,000 species. Its varieties are often referred to as ‘spurges’ and it is one of the most diverse genus in the plant world.
Remember to wear gloves when handling the Euphorbia tirucalli as the milky sap is produces is a strong irritant. Water it regularly during spring and summer, with a reduced amount during the winter months.
Did you know?
Euphorbia tirucalli is also known by a variety of other names, including Firestick Plants, Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, Sticks on Fire or Milk Bush.
This plant is often used in medicines but, if handled incorrectly, can be poisonous and will irritate the skin. Additionally if it comes in contact with the eyes it can sometimes lead to temporary blindness.
The milky sap of the Euphorbia tirucalli can be refined into a form of gasoline and it has been hypothesised that one acre of these plants could produce between 10 and 50 barrels of oil.