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  Euphorbia lactea CACTUS ART

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of Cacti and Succulents.

Euphorbia lactea
This is a shiny-surfaced, many branched, 3-sided, succulent markedly banded with very ornamental whitish and green marbled marking.


As with all other Euphorbias when a plant get damaged it exudes a thick white milky sap known as latex. This latex  is poisonous and particularly dangerous for the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. So pay extreme attention not to get any in your eyes or mouth.  Cultivated plants must be handled carefully.

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Photo gallery EUPHORBIA



Family: Euphorbiaceae

Scientific name:  Euphorbia lactea Haworth
In: Synops. Pl. Succ. 127, 1812

Origin:  Grows wild, in tropical Asia. Widely cultivated in west Indies, Florida and in many tropical areas world wide. Widely escaped from cultivation and in many places forming dense thickets.

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.

Common Names include: Dragoon bones tree, Dragon bones, Candelabra spurge, Candelabra Cactus, Cactus Candelabre, Caper Spurge, Candle-stick tree,


  • Euphorbia lactea Rouxburgh 1832 (Non. Illeg.,Art. 53.1)


Description: A tall, dark-green, many-branched, spinous milky-juiced shrub, with distinctive silhouette that grow up to over 3-6 m tall (or more) but rarely does in cultivation.
Stems: Erect, approx 5 cm in diameter, constricted into oblong green segments. Centre of the segments conspicuously pale often with very ornamental whitish and lime green marbled marking.
Ribs: 3(or 4) slightly winged, sinuate.
Leaves: It have have only the tiniest hint of leaves at the growing tips in summer. The leaves are rudimentary, circular, reddish, up to 3 mm in diameter, sessile, deciduous,
Stipular spines: Tiny but sharp, paired, widely divergent along the margins, 2-6 mm long.

This is a highly variable species with several forms and hybrids making precise descriptions of it difficult. Among them:

  • E. lactea 'Ghost' form With nearly white stems.
  • E. lactea 'giant' form Large stemmed
  • E. lactea 'crested' forms There are several and variously coloured crested forms mainly selected by Asian growers.

Euphorbia lactea is only hardy to maybe 5 C and most grow it either in pots (excellent potted plant) or plant it in very protected locations. Euphorbia lactea being from a tropical climate, it is one of the few columnar Euphorbias that do exceptionally well in very wet, humid climates. It need  bright light to partial shade for best appearance (but the variegated forms do best if protected from strong sunshine in the hottest hours of the day). It responds well to warmth, with its active growth period in the late spring and summer months. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch during active growing season (more than once a week during hot weather) In the winter months, waterigs should be suspended or restricted to once over the winter. The most common failure in growing this plant is over watering, especially during the winter months. Likes porous soil with adequate drainage. Succulent Euphorbias in greenhouses apparently are seldom affected by fungous diseases.

The Ghost form can be badly burned in direct sunlight, though acclimating it to morning sun is not difficult. This is a slow growing plant, though the cristate forms seem particularly slow growing. Cristate forms are usually grown as grafted plants and that may have something to do with their slow growth rate.

Reproduction: It is propagated by cuttings,  while the variegated and crested forms are difficult to grow on their own roots, and are generally grafted for convenience on Euphorbia canariensis or Euphorbia resinifera.
It is recommend taking Euphorbia cuttings in Spring/Summer when the plant is growing so that they have a better chance of success. They key is heat & good air circulation. These cuttings should be dipped in Hormone powder (but it is not needed) and left for a period of 3-4 weeks to callous. Then pot the cutting and don't water ( or kept slightly moist) until rooted. These will root just fine, if you can put the pot outside in the summer, or put pot on a heating pad.


It is a fency plant that makes very thick-set hedges, it is also used in traditional medicine against, in warts and tumor.

Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars of
Euphorbia lactea.


Home | E-mail | Plant files | Mail Sale Catalogue | Links | Information | Search

All the information and photos in cactus art files are now available also in the new the Encyclopaedia of Succulents. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.