Thursday, 16 October 2008

Euphoric about Euphorbia


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).

(photo by Jackie Banham; many thanks for not falling into the sea
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 Hy√®res 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

Driftwood Spurge

For many, yet another maquis plant,
for me - pure Euphoria !

15 komentari:

GardenJoy4Me said...

Violet .. what amazing plants and what awesome pictures .. they are almost the perfect Halloween plant ! LOL
It makes me wonder how on earth some plants can exist in no soil .. hardly any water .. and yet flourish ? ..
Maybe I should get some for my garden ? haha
Great post !

Amanda Thomsen said...

Friggin' gorgeous! I love the Euphorbia family, except Pointsettias. Blech.

Steve said...

I confess, I didn't realize what a large family Euphorbia really was. Amanda's comment there sent me scurrying to find out and, yes, Poinsettias are them too. Lordy - who knew? I have always been a Euphorbia fan, ever since moving to Nevada and wondering what the heck grew there. When I discovered the perennial Euphorbia's, it was a major find. What a great blog and what a fun writer to read. Keep it up! You rock, Violet.

West Coast Island Gardener said...

No shrinking Violet this but a gardener of international plant intrigue!

My goodness gracious you give me the vapours!

Plant smuggling and cliff-dangling capers are one thing but enlisting loyal recruits doing death defying photography(good on you Jackie!) Violet, you are a dangerous woman...
Sign me up!

Fab photos of the Euphorbia.Quite the bare branched siren. Totally understand your obesession with that naked beauty on the cliff.

May the thrilling adventures continue!

Maria said...

Hallo Violet, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving this sweet message and compliments! I have looked through your blog and I like it very much!Those great pictures from Greece! You said that you don't understand people barbecueing on a wonderful beach. Same with me: I would also climb the cliffs or swim or or or...
I would be happy if we stay in touch! Have a nice week!

spookydragonfly said...

Thanks for the visit to my blog! Your blog and photos are amazing!! You are no expert??? ha!! Have you visited my main blog..Wishnik Woods? Nothing like your blog here, but more of a variety of photos than Damsels and Dragons of Wishnik Woods. I will definately be back!!

Roses and stuff said...

Violet, that's a very interesting story! It's nice to bring the odd plant home as souveniers, and this particular one seems to be well worth growing. Drought resistant and also - very beautiful!

Jackie said...

Visiting via Blog Village. Great photos and plants. Will come back and read more.

Rowena said...

I know nothing of the euphorbia family, so this was a delight to read (especially how you so had to have one!). The top photo is so dramatic that at first I almost didn't see the plant in question. You're like the Indiana Jones of the plant world!

Yoli said...

That just takes your breath away.

Susie said...

That is a great looking Euphorbia! Love that picture showing it growing out the side of the cliff. Plants have such a will to live.

I grew Euphorbia last year but it croaked this past spring.

Cosmo said...

Hi, Viooltje--I've fallen behind on my blog reading, and what treats I've missed (glad these posts stay around!) So, the Readers' Digest Condenses version of my comments:

My favorite plant is my euphorbia lomi--I've had it for years and I love its twisted, thorny ways--

I hope Kristy is doing better--its gut wrenching when our animals are ill, thank goodness she had you to help her--

I adore Paul Newman, and did even when my teenaged friends thought Robert Redford was cuter--

I have never seen Ithaca but I've always longed to--I'm teaching The Odyssey in the spring and if it's ok I'll show my class your beautiful photos.

To be redundant--your photos are BEAUTIFUL--I can't believe how brilliantly you caught that spider and those petals. I vow to be a more diligent reader (my loss if I lag . . .) Yours is a truly wonderful blog.

Patsi said...

Beautiful picture of the sea.
Very fascinating post,full of information.
The Euphorbia family is something I'm not familiar with.
It's great learning something new.
I understand your summer temperatures average 75 F just where I like them.
It seems like a long time since I visited you last. I'll try not to wait so long next time.

Kanak Hagjer said...

And I thought Euphorbias were only the small variety! What an interesting post and so much information. Wow, not many will have that kind of passion!!!

Les, Zone 8a said...

I was directed here by Cosmo after I wrote a recent post on Euphorbia lactea. I am glad to know there are other bloggers out there who will risk life and limb to bring their readers interesting stories.

I also enjoyed your post on Dubrovnik. My wife's godmother is from Indija in Serbia, and she is very nostalgic of Dubrovnik. She has travelled well in her long life, and says it is one on the most beautiful cities on the planet.

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