Euphorbias range from tiny annual plants to large and long-lived trees. The genus has over or about 2,000 members, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants. The genus Euphorbia, pronounced u-FOR-bee-ah, is immense and by no means limited to succulents. Some euphorbias are commercially widely available, such as poinsettias at Christmas. Some are commonly cultivated as ornamentals, or collected and highly valued for the aesthetic appearance of their unique floral structures, such as Euphorbia milii, commonly called the crown of thorns plant.
Succulent euphorbias may resemble cacti but are native to Africa rather than the desert Southwest and Mexico. Spines of cacti radiate from a central point (aureole), which euphorbias lack. Cactus flowers tend to be large and brilliantly hued; those of euphorbias are pealike spheres that open to tiny white or yellow blooms that are quite small relative to the plant.
Take care as the milky latex-like sap of euphorbias is caustic and extremely irritating to the eyes. Should you get it on your skin, wash thoroughly with soap and water. Don’t plant euphorbias in areas where children and pets play.
Many euphorbias resemble coral and other undersea creatures. Among the look-alikes included here are medusoid euphorbias, fire sticks, Tanzanian zipper plant, ‘Snowflake’, and baseball plant. Others worth seeking for an undersea scene are the crested form of Euphorbia lactea (alabaster swirl), Euphorbia resinifera (resin spurge), and Euphorbia leucodendron (pencil cactus).