The Euphorbiaceae, part 2

“Euphorbia” sounds like “euphoric”, so of course I spent a little time researching it. I found a detailed account that goes back to the Natural History of Pliny, first published in AD 79. Seems the plant was named for a physician, Euphorbus. “Euphoric” can be translated as “well-fed”; it’s from the Greek “euphoros”, which means “healthy”. The whole story, as well as much more detailed information about all aspects of the family, can be found at the Euphorbia Planetary Biodiversity Inventory Project website.

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As for euphorbs in Maryland, we have maybe 40 species, roughly half of which are native. About a dozen of those natives are in the Maryland piedmont. And yet I’ve only seen one: flowering spurge, Euphorbia corollata. You might recognize it as the current wallpaper image on my blog. It’s also the white flowering plant I’m shooting in the current banner photo, also pictured below:

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This was a magnificent specimen, standing about two and a half feet tall, growing right out of a cleft in the rock along the Billy Goat A trail near Great Falls. The plants seem to like rocky places, at least in the Potomac gorge. Watch for them blooming in August, also on Billy Goat B and at Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park.

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Those white parts aren’t petals, of course; they’re bracts. The actual floral parts are contained in the cyathia in the very center. The whole structure measures about half an inch across.

This is a truly graceful plant, one of my favorites. I think it would be a lovely motif on a fabric.

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