flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata)
white flowering spurge
Euphorbia corollata L. var. angustifolia Elliott
Euphorbia marilandica Greene
Tithymalopsis corollata (L.) Klotzsch
Tithymalopsis marilandica (Greene) Small
Tithymalopsis olivacea Small
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for flowering
spurge is Euphorbia corollata L.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Flowering spurge is a native perennial plant ranging from ½-3' tall although it generally grows to about two feet. The central stem is light
green, slender, and without hairs; it is unbranced below the inflorescence.
The stem has a milky white latex in the stem (also in the leaves), which
has toxic properties that can irritate the digestive tract or skin. The plant is dichotomously branched (repeatedly forked in two) at the top, each final
branch ending in a flower cluster.
Leaves: The hairless leaves are about 2-3" long and ½" wide, broadly lin-
ear or narrowly oblong, and have smooth margins. Leaves have rounded
bases and tips; the leaf blade is without a petiole. Leaves occur along the
stem alternately, except at the apex of the plant, where they occur in whorls
of three beneath the panicle of flowers.
Flowers: There are minute flowers surrounded by white, round, petal-like
bracts attached to rim of a cup, all in a few- to much-branched, open clust-
er atop each stem. Each flowerhead consists of a yellow cyathium of very
small yellow flowers, which is surrounded by five petal-like structures
(modified leaves) that are white, with a hint of green towards the center.
These flowerheads are numerous, each one a little less than ½" across.
Each cluster holds one pistallate (female) flower and several staminate
(male) flowers. During this time, the entire plant often leans over because
of the weight of the inflorescence. There is no floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower produces 3 oval, finely pitted brown seeds,
about .15 inches long which are ejected outward mechanically.
Roots: The root system consists of a stout taproot that becomes woody
with maturity, and it produces short rhizomes.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Flowering spurge propagates isself by
reseeding; it can also spread vegetatively through rhizomes.
HABITAT TYPES: Flowering spurge is a highly adpatable plant found
in a wide variety of habitats. Habitats include mesic to dry black soil
prairies, sand prairies, gravel prairies, and dolomite prairies; openings in
upland forests and sandy forests; mesic to dry savannas, sandy savannas,
and barrens; various kinds of hill prairies and inland dunes, with the soil
consisting of loess, glacial drift, sand, or gravel; limestone glades and
bluffs; sand dunes; stream banks; areas along railroads and roads; and
agricultural land in various stages of abandonment and neglect. It is also sometimes cultivated as an ornamental.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Flowering spurge is an open land species,
preferring drier soils. The preference is full sun, and mesic to dry condi-
tions. This plant will tolerate almost any kind of soil, including that which
is sandy, rocky, loamy, or clayish. Poor soil is actually preferred because
of the reduction in competition from other plants. Drought resistance is
quite high, and disease is rarely a problem when the soil is well-drained.
This slow-growing plant can spread vegetatively, but is not particularly aggressive.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Flowering spurge generally blooms dur-
ing mid- to late summer for about 1½ months. However, it has been report-
ed as blooming as early as May and lasting until October.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Flowering spurge is naturally found from
Florida north to Maine and westward along the Gulf Coast to Texas and
north to South Dakota. It does not naturally occur in the southwestern,
Rocky Mountain, far western Pacific and northwestern states. It is also
found in Ontario, Canada.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers of flowering spurge attract
wasps, flies, and short-tongued bees primarily. Among the wasps are such
visitors as Mud Daubers, Paper wasps, Spider wasps, Cuckoo wasps,
Tiphiid wasps, Crabronine wasps, and Ichneumonid wasps. Fly visitors
include Syrphid flies, bee flies, Tachinid flies, flesh flies, blow flies, and
Muscid flies. Ants may help to distribute some of the seeds because of a
small edible appendage at their base. The seeds are popular with some
species of birds, including the wild turkey, greater prairie chicken, bob-
white, mourning dove, and horned lark. This plant is rarely eaten by
mammalian herbivores because of the toxic white latex in the leaves and
stems, which can kill cattle.
Several medicinal uses by the Cherokee are reported including a treatment
for cancer, a purgative, an ointment for sores, and numerous uses of the
root: a physic, a treatment for pin worms, and treatment of urinary tract
diseases. It needs to be noted that,while flowering spurge has been used as
a laxative, large doses can be poisonous. Members of this genus are known
to fatally poison cattle. Contact with plant, especially its milky sap, can
cause irritation of skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Sensitivity to a toxin
varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual sus-
ceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and
small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s
different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic sub-
stances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air,
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