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Caper Spurge

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 14 May 2021, 22:41

This rather unusual plant is growing in my garden. I didn't plant it and didn’t know what it was, but having recently found out about the astonishing Bing visual search “Name that plant” I uploaded a photo and got my answer. 

It’s not clear whether it is a British native plant. It seems to originate from the Mediterranean region and South Asia, and so it might be a garden escape. Although it is poisonous and has a somewhat sinister appearance, it is cultivated for its unusual “architecture” as one web site described  it and you can buy seeds from garden centres.

Its botanical name is Euphorbia lathyris. Euphorbia are a large(ca. 2000) genus of flowing plants, ranging in size from a few centimetres up to large trees. They all exude a milky poisonous sap, latex, which seems to have evolved as a defence against plant eaters (although it's said goats are immune, maybe that's why it's caper spurge).

There are other spurges you might see in your garden; common spurge, a weed of flower borders, and sun spurge which is it bigger cousin, which I think is a native wild flower but is also cultvated for its intriguoing and decorative appearance.

The common name spurge comes from the plant's traditional use as a purgative.

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Nicky Van Tol-Williams

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Thanks for sharing this, and great to learn about Bing too smile


At long last I have identified this plant in my back yard {jungle}. I have been looking for a couple of years so thanks for sharing your knowledge... that is what I love about gardeners always sowing seeds of wisdom and joy. I am living in a temporary home and the garden was just a bramble patch over shadowed by an enormous yukka which has been left to its own devices. So... I tried and tried and had to admit it was far too bigger task for me. So I enlisted some help and well the brambles were gone and it did look pitiful. Imagine my surprise when up popped six aqualegsias a fuscia some poppies . The butterfly bush has gone mad and then hops!! I have robins green parrots and tits and yesterday I saw my first wren....all in sunny Croydon. Sorry if some of my spelling is off any proof reading accepted! Thanks again Angela