This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Sun Spurge. Cypress Spurge.
Euphorbia helioscopia. Euphorbia cyparissias.
- Euphorbiaceae. -
- Rosaceae. The whole of the British species of Spurge have a singular character, which enables the tyro in botanical matters to determine the genus at a glance, though he may not be so successful in distinguishing between the twelve or thirteen native species. This singularity is chiefly due to the colour and arrangement of their flowers. These possess neither sepals nor petals; instead, a number of unisexual flowers are wrapped in an involucre. An individual involucre of, say, the Sun Spurge, should be detached and examined with the aid of the pocket-lens. It will be seen to have four lobes, to each of which is attached an orbicular yellow gland. Within the involucre are several flowers, each consisting of a single stamen on a separate flower-stalk (note joint), and from the midst of these arises a single pistillate flower on a long, curved stalk. With slight variations this is the form of inflorescence which characterizes the whole genus. The British species may be briefly enumerated thus:
I. Sun Spurge (E. helioscopia.) Annual herb with yellow green obovate leaves, the margin of upper half toothed. Milky juice used as a wart-cure. Waste places, June to October.
II. Broad-leaved Spurge (E. platyphyllos). Annual. Leaves broad, lance-shaped, sharp-pointed, toothed above middle. Fruit (capsule) warted. Fields and waste places from York southwards: rare. July to October.
III. Irish Spurge (E. hiberna). Perennial. Leaves thin, ovate, not toothed, tip blunt or notched; upper leaves heart-shaped. Glands of involucre purple, kidney-shaped. Hedges and thickets, rare; only in North Devon and South and West of Ireland. Flowers May and June. Juice used by salmon-poachers for poisoning rivers.
IV. Wood Spurge (E. amygdaloides). Perennial, stout, red, shrubby. Leaves obovate, thick, tough, reddish, 2 to 3 inches long, hairy beneath, lower on short stalks. Involucral glands half-moon shaped, yellow. Woods and copses, chiefly on clay soils. Flowers March to May.
V. Petty Spurge (E. peplus). Annual. Leaves thin, broadly obovate, on short stalks, ¾ inch long. Involucral glands half-moon shaped (lunate), with long horns. Waste ground, market-gardens and flower-beds. July to November.
VI. Dwarf Spurge (E. exigua). Annual. Much branched. Leaves very narrow and stiff. Involucres small, almost stalkless. Involucral glands, rounded with two blunt-pointed horns. Fields, especially on light soil. July to October.
VII. Portland Spurge (E. portlandica). Perennial, tufted, many-branched stems. Leaves tough, obovate acute, spreading. Involucral glands, lunate, with two long horns. Sandy shores, on South and West coasts, and in Ireland. May to August. Rare.
VIII. Sea Spurge (E.paralias). Perennial, bushy, many-stemmed, stout, reddish, woody below. Leaves narrow, concave, very thick, arranged in whorls, Points of involucral glands short. Sandy shores, July to October.
IX. Leafy-branched Spurge (E. esula). Perennial. Rootstock creeping. Stem slender. Leaves thin, narrow, sometimes toothed. Involucres small, on long stalks, glands lunate, with short straight horns. Woods and fields; Jersey, Forfar, Edinburgh, and Alnwick. July.
X. Cypress Spurge (E. cyparissias). Perennial. Rootstock creeping. Leaves very narrow, not toothed. Woods, England, June and July.
XI. Caper Spurge (E. lathyris). Biennial. Stem short and stout, 3 to 4 feet second year. Leaves narrow, broader at base, opposite, alternate pairs placed at right angles to each other (decussate). Copses and woods, June and July. Fruit used as a condiment.
XII. Purple Spurge (E. peplis). Annual. Stems prostrate, purple, glaucous. Leaves oblong, heart-shaped, thick, on short stalks, with stipules, opposite. Glands oblong. Very rare. On sandy coasts, South Wales, Cornwall to Hants, and Water ford. July to September.
All the species have milky sap. Poisonous.