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Scientific: Euphorbia polygona (Synonym: Euphorbia horrida)
Common: Spurge is the common name for Euphorbia in general. This species has no common name.
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Origin: South Africa

Pronounciation: U-FOR-bee-a pol-ee-GO-na

Hardiness zones
USDA 9-11

Landscape Use: A textural accent for small-scale landscape settings, rock gardens and desert landscapes, containers.

Form & Character: Upright, stiff, plump, sometimes gray, weakly armed, miniature, comical, dry.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, succulent perennial, basally branching, very slow growing succulent shrub growing to 12- to 18-inches tall, spreading very slowly by basal rhizomes to form loose clumps.

Foliage/texture: Generally leafless, stems photosynthetic, dull gray green to fully glaucous blue gray, 6 to 9 sided, stem ridges armed with short white to purple spines; coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: The flowers are small with maroon to purple sepals, and the fruit a small capsule with one seed in each cell. Flowering is rare out of its native range.

Seasonal color: None

Temperature: Tolerant of Phoenix temperatures, except for during June to August when temperatures occassionally soar past 115oF. Full sun and above 118oF and 'it's curtains' for this diminuative little taxon.

Light: In Phoenix, partial filtered shade to mostly full sun. NO summer late afternoon western sun.

Soil: Tolerant of alkaline and saline soils; however, soils must be well drained!

Watering: Little to no additional water is needed during most of the year. Supplemental water is needed only during the hottest months of the summer.

Pruning: None, except to divide to clumps about every 5 to 10 years.

Propagation: Division best, stem cuttings if one allows stem segments (propagules) to dry for a week before planting so the wound can seal. Unsealed cuttings, planted too soon, will easily rot before they can grow roots. Before drying, I recommend washing the stem segment to remove the latex.

Disease and pests: None

Additional comments: Euphorbia polygona makes a nice specimen plant for rock gardens and patio containers. Make sure in Phoenix to give it protection from the intense western sun of summer. It is very low maintenance, clean and care free......but, like others of its kind, it does have a dark side.......meaning like other Euphorbia plants, the latex of Euphorbia polygana is particularly dangerous to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes and will produce a burning pain in bones and limbs and a paralytic weakness in the joints. Handle cultivated plants carefully and use extreme caution to NOT get any latex in eyes or mouth.

Taxonomic tidbits: There are as many as 12 recognized varietal selections of Euphorbia polygana. One very cool, yet delicate (prone to root rot) variety to grow in a container pot is Euphorbia polygona var. minor.....Check it out! Or check out this prostrate, spineless variety, Euphorbia polygona var. anoplia.

Historical musings: The genus Euphorbia consists of 2008 species and is one of the most diverse genera in the plant kingdom. Euphorbia is derived from "Euphorbus, the Greek physician of King Juba II of Numidia (ca. 52 to 50 BC to 23 AD), who married the daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra. He wrote that one of the cactus-like Euphorbias was a powerful laxative. In 12 BC, Juba named this plant after his physician Euphorbus in response to Augustus Ceasar dedicating a statue to Antonius Busa, his own personal physician. Botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus assigned the name Euphorbia to the entire genus in the physician's honor" (source: Wikipedia). For more information see the International Euphorbia Society.