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Euphorbia abyssinica

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Euphorbia abyssinica
This is a very showy candlestick tree-like plant which grows arms over time. Stems edges are ridged with short, pairs of closely packed (almost touching) triangular, corky, spines up to 7 mm wide and 10 mm long .
 

Description: This is a nice large, cactus-like, candlestick, tree Euphorbia with short thorns. It form a dense crown of ascending branches usually up to 4,5 m tall (but reported to reach 9 m of height ) This is a highly variable species with several forms and making precise descriptions may be difficult.
Stems: Columnar, angular branches, constricted into ovate segment appox 15 cm long,
Ribs: 8 (4 for E. acruensis) very deep, vertical or slightly twisted with thin walls and shallow sinuate teeth 12 mm apart.
Spines: Stipular spines in pairs closely packed (almost touching) on the rib border, triangular up to 7 mm wide and 10 mm long, separate, becoming corky.
Flowers: 1-5 cyathia up to 12 mm wide born together on simple cymes, peduncles up to 5 mm long stout, nectar glands elliptic yellow, almost touching.
Fruits: About 12 x15 mm wide, subglobose, fleshy, white turning red, hardening, becoming deeply lobed at maturity.
Seeds: Smooth, subglobose, 4,5 x 3,5 mm wide,
Remarks: It has a very clean and neat appearance and is often confused with with E. ammak, E. ingens and E. erythraea . Nevertheless this plant is often leafed out, especially if warm and given plenty of water. This makes it easy to tell from , which rarely has leaves, or they are so small and insignificant. Furthermore E. abyssinica grows more vertical in form than its cousins.
 

 

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Family: Euphorbiaceae

Scientific name:  Euphorbia abyssinica J.F.Gmel.
In: Syst. Nat.: 759 1791

Common English Names include:
 Candelabra Spurge.

Origin: It is the the principal tree euphorbia of northeast Africa ranging from East Sudan (Red Sea Hills) to Eritrea, Northern Ethiopia and Northern Somalia.

Habitat: Grows in the most exposed places in well-drained stony soils and in the crevices of rock faces of hills and slopes, in montane dry deciduous and evergreen woodland and bushland , woodland and shrub savanna at 850 to 2200 m altitude. It occurs widely throughout dryland Africa and it is often dominant.

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.

Synonyms:

  • Euphorbia abyssinica var. erythraeae A Berger
  • Euphorbia abyssinica var. tetragona Schweinfurth 1899
  • Euphorbia acrurensis N.E.Br. 1912
  • Euphorbia aethiopum Croizat 1941
  • Euphorbia candelabrum var. erythraeae A. Berger 1907
  • Euphorbia controversa N.E.Br. 1912
  • Euphorbia disclusa N.E.Br. 1912
  • Euphorbia erythraeae (Berger) N.E.Br. 1912
  • Euphorbia grandis Lemaire 1857
  • Euphorbia hararensis Pax 1907
  • Euphorbia neglecta N.E.Br. 1912
  • Euphorbia neutra A.Berger 1907
  • Euphorbia obovalifolia A.Richard 1851
  • Euphorbia officinarum var. kolquall Willddenow 1799
  • Euphorbia richardiana Baillon 1860
 


Cultivation:
It is an easy species to grow that is suited for any well drained soil in full sun. But young plant are happy growing indoors, where they can easily reach the ceiling. Give the plant an airy growing medium which mainly consists of non organic material such us clay, pumice, lava grit, and only a little peat or leaf-mould. Water regularly during the active growing season from March to September. No water should ever be allowed to stand around the roots. Keep almost completely dry in winter. It is a moderately fast grower, and will quickly become large landscape masterpieces in just 3-5 years. Only downside is from strong winds, the columns often smash into each other, causing permanent scarring... best to plant in such a location where winds are not a big issue. If plant becomes very red, this is a sign that the roots have not developed properly.  It can tolerate moderate shade, and a plant that has been growing in shade should be slowly hardened off before placing it in full sun as the plant will be severely scorched if moved too suddenly from shade into sun. Like quite small pots, repott in very later winter, early spring. Can be pruned for shape and branching. Frost tender, frost free zones only. It is definitely more tender than E. ammak or E. ingens, and slower growing, it will be content in its position and with its soil for years.

Propagation:  It is easy to propagate by cuttings in late spring to summer,  just take a cutting of the plant let it dry for 1 or 2 weeks and stuff it in the ground (preferably dry, loose, extremely well draining soil).

Warning: All Euphorbias contain a white sap that can be irritating to eyes and mucous membranes. If contact is made with this white sap, take care to not touch face or eyes before washing hands with soap and water.

Uses:

  • Gardening: This tree can be grown in large, rocky, well-drained soil in gardens in drier areas. It is very drought resistant but susceptible to frost. It makes one of the better house plants for an Euphorbia, dealing well with low light situations (though recommend higher light if possible). Somewhat user-friendly with only sparse spines along the edges of the plant. Slightly delicate, though, and spines tear off easily, exposing that latexy sap. It is also appreciated as a live fence because it is easily propagated from untreated mature branch cuttings.
  • Fuel production: The Italians attempted to grow Euphorbia abyssinica in 1935-36 to use its latex to produce a gasoline-like substitute.
  • Fishing: It is used to stupefy fish, making it possible to catch them by hand. The fish poison is prepared by soaking a bundle of grass in the latex, tying it to a stone and throwing it into the water. Paralysed fish rise to the surface within a short period of time.



 

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This old page has been moved! Click the link next on the right to enter the new Enciclopedia of Succulents. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.

Encyclopedia of Succulents