A TASTE OF THE UNUSUAL
It is no secret that the majority of people get attracted to plants whose colorful display of strikingly wonderful blooms just can't go unnoticed. Being yet another odd person, I always loved to go astray and find delight in all those neglected, out-of-the-ordinary specimens which were doing their best to draw someone's attention, but were obviously poorly informed on the current trends in the world. Followed by my kinky needs, years ago I stumbled upon this uncanny plant and was instantly drawn to its alien strangeness. While climbing up the ruins of an old Venetian fortress, these strange, weird 'naked' shrubs caught my eye. Why 'naked'? They had exquisitely red bark (such a lovely burning color that would make even the Red-barked Dogwood feel cheap) and no foliage at all. But were still worth of all my admiration. To be honest, I haven't had the faintest idea of its origin. But one thing was sure, it wouldn't let me sleep until I had at least one of me own ;-) I noticed a beautiful, solitary specimen on the high cliff overlooking the beach that was closed due to rock-slide. And amid all that earthquake waste material, I found little babies popping out underneath the mother plant. A gentle pull and I had two of them ready to be 'processed' and balled. Thanks to impeckable airport luggage control system, nobody noticed these two extraterrestrials cramming inside.
The first thing I noticed about them living in their new habitat (pot), and constantly having sufficient amounts of water, was the leaves that started popping out. I figured out that the plant must be really extremely drought resistant, so in periods of great droughts which can last for months on Kefalonia, they discard the leaves and thus their uncanny summer-look. I was worried about not knowing it's ID and its needs so again, I turned to my friend Jackie, who is an excellent connoisseur of the island's flora (be sure to check her extraordinary albums of Kefalonian flora). She went back to the place where I have first seen them, to take a shot at what they looked like at the moment (spring).
and taking this shot, it has made all the difference)
It was this very shot that started all the turmoil in my restless mind. It sure as hell looked like a type of Euphorbia and I was now determined to find out which variety it was. And the clues lead us to one particular variety - Euphorbia dendroides / Tree spurge. The funny thing is, the next thing I did, I googled up the photos for this plant, and found out that many of them were shot at the south of Croatian Adriatic coast. Shame on me for being so poor on my country's flora!
This summer I discovered entire areas where these plants have colonized the rocky cliffs and took a closer look into their enigma. Since I can remember, I've had a thing for Euphorbias, never mind them being small succulents, grass-like or huge trees. That's why, ultimately, my infatuation with this beauty came as no surprise to anyone. Even though the fact that I was constantly on about this insignificant, bare, lame bush did cause a whining avalanche...
To reduce my babbling, let me introduce the plant properly. As it bloody well deserves.
Venue: Kefalonia, Ionian islands, Greece (for a change ;-)
Specie: Mediterranean Tree Spurge (Euphorbia dendroides)
''(200)cm, Mediterranean Tree Spurge is a beautiful, semi hardy, densely branching, woody shrub like species with showy orange red leaves before plants start their summer dormancy. Native of coastal areas throughout the Mediterranean. Easily grown in pots in any rich, well drained soil in a sunny spot throughout the year. In winter keep drier at a minimum of some 5°C. USDA climate zone 10. III-VI.''
''Euphorbia dendroides L. (Euphorbiaceae) Native of the Mediterranean region, from the Isles de Hyères in S. France, southwards, and eastwards to Israel, growing on rocky, usually limestone slopes and cliffs near the sea, at up to 400 m, flowering from March-May. An evergreen shrub to 2 m; leaves 2-6.5 cm long. Glands shortly 2-horned. Seeds 2.5-3 mm, pale grey. Dry, well-drained soil, without water in summer. Full sun. Hardy to -5°C.'' (Rogers Trees and Shrubs)
So far I have smuggled three of these beauties and intend to try one as an outdoor plant next year, against the dry, south wall.
- a monoecious plant
- fleshy skeleton during summer (accumulates water in its remaining tissues)
- with the arrival of fall rains, the foliage reappears
- as all of the Euphorbia genus, has a white latex which can give you a nettle-like rash
- in the past: Tree Spurge latex was used for illegal fishing - poured into streams to stun and more easily catch fish and eels
- also called 'wolf-milk' bush in Croatia
- finally, one mystery remains - these unusual plants are very difficult to find commercially, but have not been adopted by nurseries