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Euphorbia cooperi

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Euphorbia cooperi is one of the most beautifull of all tree-like euphorbia, characterized by periods of rapid growth, designated by the wide sections, and minimal growth which are the narrow sections.
 

Description: Euphorbia cooperi is a spiny, succulent tree 4-7 m tall, with conspicuous candelabra-like branches. The branches do not split again, unlike the common tree Euphorbia. Old dead branches hang underneath the the compact crown for a while. Over time all lower branches sheds in a continual process leaving the top branches to accentuate the candelabra form.
Stem: The solitary trunk is naked, straight, grey to dark grey or brown with a gnarled appearance up to 5 m high. Round holes on the trunk indicate where old branches have fallen off. Branches are bright green or yellow-green even thought times of drought, conspicuously 4 to 6 winged with characteristic narrowing and widening and rounded tops like those on a some Mid-eastern building or a chunky string of beads. The triangular or heart-shaped segments are 50-150 x 120 mm.
Spines: The spines form a spiky margin along each ridge on the branches. Spines are found in pairs and are usually 5 to 7(-15) mm long. The outer rib-ridges have continuous, narrow and dark spine shields running along them.
Leaves: No clearly visible, very small, inconspicuous that fall early, they are sometimes seen on the branch ridges among the spines.
Flowers: Yellowish green, small (4 mm) bisexual, sessile, arranged in 3 parallel rows along the ridges between the spines towards the tips of the branches . They are clustered in cymes each with by 3 cyathia with the male flowers at the tip in the centre of the row, and the bisexual flowers below on the outside.
Blooming season: Spring to summer.
Fruits: The fruit is a large 3-lobed berry-like capsule, 15 x 8 mm long and green in colour with red markings that changes from red to purple when ripe. When mature, they burst open, flinging individual seeds several meters away. The fruit is eaten by birds.
Fruiting season: From spring onwards and overlap with the flowering time.
 


 For its beauty and distinctive silhouette nearly all the botanical gardens have one.

The outer rib-ridges have continuous, narrow and dark spine shields running along the paired spines.

 

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Family: Euphorbiaceae

Scientific name:  Euphorbia cooperi N.E.Br. ex A.Berger
In: Sukk. Euph.: 83 (1907); NE Br. in Fl. Cap. 5(2): 368 (1915)

Common Names include:  Lesser Candelabra Tree, Transvaal Candelabra Tree, Bushveld candelabra euphorbia

Origin: South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal , Mpumalanga; Gauteng, Swaziland and up to Messina in Limpopo)

Notes: The varieties cooperi, calidicola and ussanquensis have been described; only the first one occurs in South Africa, the others are found to the north in other African countries ( Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania; Malawi )

Habitat: This tree prefers well-drained soils and is mostly found in rockier places, often on granite outcrops and in rock cracks or in wooded grassland and thorny scrubland. In planes and in steep hillsides on north-facing slopes.

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.

 

 


Euphorbia cooperi, is a classic succulent candelabra tree with a tall erected trunk crowned with a whorl of jointed branches.

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. 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 5-10 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. It is a  long lived plant and once established, it will be content in its position and with its soil for years. 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, repot in very later winter, early spring.  Frost tender, frost free zones only.

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: Its latex is reputed the most poisonous in all of the species. Can irritate the skin even if there is proximity and no actual contact, a slight smear on the skin or face produces blisters and inhalation of the air close to a bleeding plant can produce a burning sensation in the throat. Latex irritates the eye and can cause blindeness. If contact is made with this white sap, take care to not touch face or eyes before washing hands with soap and water.

Uses:

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.
Gardening: This tree can be grown in large, rocky, well-drained soil in gardens in drier areas, however, because of the latex and spines, is not advisable for a family garden. It is very drought resistant but susceptible to frost.



 

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Encyclopedia of Succulents