This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Southern plant as it is, this Spurge is found in Preglacial beds in Norfolk and Suffolk. It ranges to-day in the North Temperate Zone from Holland southwards, and in West Asia. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, and Anglia provinces, except in Hunts; throughout the Severn province; in S. Wales, except in Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Pembroke; in N. Wales, in Montgomery, Carnarvon; in the Trent province, except in Lincs; in West Yorks, Durham, Cheviotland from Northumberland southward, and is local generally. It is found in Bandon and Donegal in Ireland, and in the Channel Islands.
The Wood Spurge is a southern chalk and limestone species, which is most plentiful on such soils, but is fairly widespread in England. It is abundant in some woods and copses, and is also a common wayside flower in the south of England, growing in clusters in the hedgerows.
It has an erect habit, with a more or less simple stem, with milky acrid juice, with numerous leaves, which are lance-shaped to egg-shaped or almond-shaped (hence the second Latin name), the lower stalked, the upper stalkless. The stem forms a branched umbel above with 5-10 rays, with a rounded united ring of bracts, nearly round, the flower-stalks slender, with glands tapering to a sudden point. The capsules are smooth, with small warts or tubercles, with smooth seeds.
The stem is 1-2 ft. high. The flowers may be found in March and June, and the plant is a deciduous undershrub, perennial, propagated by division.
The flowerheads are bisexual, i.e. there are stamens and pistil on the same flowerhead.1 The honey is exposed, and is sought by flies, beetles, Hymenoptera, and the former especially cause cross-pollination. The cup-like whorl has 4-5 round glands. There are 10-15 stamens, jointed, and equal to a stalk bearing a flower reduced to a single stamen. In the centre is a single female flower, with a 3-celled ovary and 3 styles and 2 stigmas. The stigma ripens first. The anthers close in wet weather.
Photo. H. Irving - Wood Spurge (euphorbia Amygdaloides, L.)
1 Several male flowers, with single anthers, surround one female flower.
The capsule has rounded valves, and contains smooth, nearly round seeds, slightly acute, which are expelled from the capsule by an explosive motion, the carpels opening ventrally and letting the seeds fall out. The capsule opens by partitions and loculi as well.
Wood Spurge is a lime-loving plant, found on lime soil, on the chalk, limestone, or oolites.
It is attacked by a fungus, Endophyllum Euphorbia.
A beetle, Aphthona venustula, a Hymenopterous insect, Prosopis masoni, and a moth, Sericoris euphorbiana, are found on the Wood Spurge.
Euphorbia, Dioscorides, is from Euphorbus, physician to Juba, King of Mauretania, and the second Latin name refers to the almond-shaped leaves.
This plant is called Deer's Milk, Devil's Milk, Mare's Tail, and Wood Spurge. It is known as Devil's Milk because it was supposed to be associated with the Evil One.
The juice is acrid, causing ulceration wherever applied. It has been applied externally to warts or corns, and to hollow teeth, to remove the pain and destroy the nerve, or in earache behind the ears, causing blistering.
Essential Specific Characters: 274. Euphorbia amygdaloides, L. - Stem erect, leafy, glabrous, purple below, leaves obovate, entire, alternate, flowers in umbels, with rounded connate bracts.