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Datasheet

Euphorbia tirucalli
(Indian-tree spurge)

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Datasheet

Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Euphorbia tirucalli
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Indian-tree spurge
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • E. tirucalli is a many-branched succulent plant widely commercialized as an ornamental, hedge plant, potted plant and for soil conservation (

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
TitleHabit
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
HabitEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
TitleHabit
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
HabitEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.
TitleFoliage
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.
FoliageEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, showing foliage. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); foliar habit. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.
TitleFoliage
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); foliar habit. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); foliar habit. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.
FoliageEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); foliar habit. Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. October 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); flowers. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.
TitleFlowers
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); flowers. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.
Copyright©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); flowers. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.
FlowersEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); flowers. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, grown as an ornamental. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.
TitleHabit
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, grown as an ornamental. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.
Copyright©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, grown as an ornamental. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.
HabitEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit, grown as an ornamental. Hersonissos, Crete, Greece. April 2010.©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. The tree is 12m tall and 10cm in diameter. Note the white and black bark characteristics of mature trees. Bondo District, western Kenya.
TitleTree habit
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. The tree is 12m tall and 10cm in diameter. Note the white and black bark characteristics of mature trees. Bondo District, western Kenya.
Copyright©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. The tree is 12m tall and 10cm in diameter. Note the white and black bark characteristics of mature trees. Bondo District, western Kenya.
Tree habitEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); habit. The tree is 12m tall and 10cm in diameter. Note the white and black bark characteristics of mature trees. Bondo District, western Kenya.©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a large unarmed shrub, or small tree, up to 5m tall. Branchlets are slender, smooth and cylindrical. Small leaves can be observed appearing on young green branches. Muguga, 25km northwest of Nairobi, Kenya.
TitleGeneral habit
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a large unarmed shrub, or small tree, up to 5m tall. Branchlets are slender, smooth and cylindrical. Small leaves can be observed appearing on young green branches. Muguga, 25km northwest of Nairobi, Kenya.
Copyright©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a large unarmed shrub, or small tree, up to 5m tall. Branchlets are slender, smooth and cylindrical. Small leaves can be observed appearing on young green branches. Muguga, 25km northwest of Nairobi, Kenya.
General habitEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a large unarmed shrub, or small tree, up to 5m tall. Branchlets are slender, smooth and cylindrical. Small leaves can be observed appearing on young green branches. Muguga, 25km northwest of Nairobi, Kenya.©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a windbreak in a farm. The row of trees is about 6m high. Kibos, nr. Kisumu, Kenya.
TitleWindbreak
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a windbreak in a farm. The row of trees is about 6m high. Kibos, nr. Kisumu, Kenya.
Copyright©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a windbreak in a farm. The row of trees is about 6m high. Kibos, nr. Kisumu, Kenya.
WindbreakEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a windbreak in a farm. The row of trees is about 6m high. Kibos, nr. Kisumu, Kenya.©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a trimmed, dense, live hedge. The acacia thorns on the hedge are added to further deter penetration by intruders. nr. Kariandusi, on the Nairobi-Nakuru road, Kenya.
TitleLive hedge
CaptionEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a trimmed, dense, live hedge. The acacia thorns on the hedge are added to further deter penetration by intruders. nr. Kariandusi, on the Nairobi-Nakuru road, Kenya.
Copyright©Phanuel O. Oballa
Euphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a trimmed, dense, live hedge. The acacia thorns on the hedge are added to further deter penetration by intruders. nr. Kariandusi, on the Nairobi-Nakuru road, Kenya.
Live hedgeEuphorbia tirucalli (Indian-tree spurge); a trimmed, dense, live hedge. The acacia thorns on the hedge are added to further deter penetration by intruders. nr. Kariandusi, on the Nairobi-Nakuru road, Kenya. ©Phanuel O. Oballa

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Euphorbia tirucalli L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Indian-tree spurge

Other Scientific Names

  • Arthrothamnus bergii Klotzsch & Garcke
  • Arthrothamnus ecklonii Klotzsch & Garcke
  • Arthrothamnus tirucalli (L.) Klotzsch & Garcke
  • Euphorbia geayi Constantin & Gallaud
  • Euphorbia laro Drake
  • Euphorbia media N. E. Br.
  • Euphorbia rhipsalioides Lem.
  • Euphorbia rhipsaloides Willd.
  • Euphorbia scoparia N. E. Br.
  • Euphorbia suareziana Croizat
  • Euphorbia tirucalli var. rhipsaloides (Willd.) Chev.

International Common Names

  • English: African milkbush; bone bush; finger tree; milk bush; milk hedge; milk-bush; naked lady; pench tree; pencil bush; pencil tree; rubber euphorbia; rubber hedge; skeleton tree
  • Spanish: alfabeto chino; antena; aveloz; consuelda; esqueleto; palito
  • French: arbre de saint Sebastien; euphorbe antivenerien; euphorbe effilé; garde maison
  • Chinese: lü yu shu
  • Portuguese: almeidinha

Local Common Names

  • Bahamas: pencil-tree
  • Brazil: avelós; aveloz
  • Cuba: disciplinilla
  • Dominican Republic: alfabeto chino; aniseto; antena; esquelito; palito; polito
  • East Africa: mtupa mwitu; utupa
  • Germany: Milchbusch; Wolfsmilch, Finger-
  • India: Indian tree spurge; konpal; konpalsehnd; sehund; thuar; thuhar
  • India/Gujarat: thor dandalio
  • India/Tamil Nadu: chemedu; kada jemudu; kalli; tirukalli
  • India/West Bengal: lankasij; latadoana
  • Kenya: anno; asubgwa; kariaria; ojuok; ol-oile; shikhoni; utudi
  • Lesser Antilles: coral cactus; wishbone cactus
  • Malaysia: kayu patah; tentulang; tulang-tulang
  • Philippines: bali-bali
  • Puerto Rico: esqueleto
  • Rwanda: umuyenzi
  • Somalia: dana
  • Thailand: khia cheen; khia thian
  • Uganda: kakoni; oruyenje
  • United States Virgin Islands: Indian tree spurge; pencil cactus

EPPO code

  • EPHTI (Euphorbia tirucalli)

Summary of Invasiveness

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E. tirucalli is a many-branched succulent plant widely commercialized as an ornamental, hedge plant, potted plant and for soil conservation (Orwa et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2016). It has escaped from cultivation and once naturalized, it often grows forming thickets mostly in disturbed sites, abandoned gardens, deciduous forests, semiarid sites, and along roadsides (Little et al., 1974; PIER, 2016). This species grows very fast, and produces a lot of biomass even under very marginal soil and extreme climatic conditions (Mwine and Damme, 2011). In invaded areas, it is propagating vegetatively by cuttings and stem fragments (Little et al., 1974; PIER, 2016). Currently, this species is listed as invasive in Hawaii and Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; PIER, 2016), but is listed as potentially invasive on many islands in the Pacific and in tropical and subtropical areas of Asia (Nguyen and Sosef, 1999; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016; PIER, 2016).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Euphorbiales
  •                         Family: Euphorbiaceae
  •                             Genus: Euphorbia
  •                                 Species: Euphorbia tirucalli

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The family Euphorbiaceae includes about 218 genera and 6745 species with Pantropical distribution (Stevens, 2012). Members of this family are mostly herbs, shrubs, and trees, sometimes succulent and cactus-like plants with xerophytic adaptations (Esser, 2009; Stevens, 2012). The Euphorbiaceae was considered as a morphologically well-defined family for a long time, based mostly on their unisexual flowers and the typical schizocarpous fruits. However, recent molecular studies have resulted in the recognition of several, mostly small families (i.e., Peraceae, Phyllanthaceae, Picrodendraceae, Putranjivaceae). In the most recent circumscription, Euphorbiaceae is defined as clearly monophyletic (Esser, 2009). The genus Euphorbia is among the largest genera of angiosperms, with about 2420 species that are renowned for their remarkably diverse growth forms (Horn et al., 2012; Stevens, 2012).

The family name Euphorbiaceae and genus name Euphorbia were named in honour of Euphorbus, 1st century physician to King Juba of Mauritania, who is believed to have used plants of this genus as medicine (Voigt and Porter, 2007).The specific epithet 'tirucalli' was used for E. tirucalli by Linnaeus in 1753 as this was the common name used by the natives of Malabar, India.

Description

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Trees or shrubs, producing abundant milky latex when injured, 2-6 m tall, dioecious, eventually forming a trunk 10-25 cm DBH with rugose, gray or light bark. Stems green, succulent, finely, longitudinally striate. Leaves alternate, present only on new growth; stipules very small, caducous; petiole ± absent; leaf blade oblong-linear, 7-15 × 0.7-1.5 mm, base attenuate, margin entire, apex obtuse. Cyathia clustered at apex of branches, pedunculate, unisexual; involucral leaves minute, membranous, caducous; involucre turbinate, approximately 2 × 1.5 mm, shortly pubescent inside; glands 5, peltate-ovate or subrounded. Male flowers many, exserted from involucre. Female flower: ovary glabrous, exserted from involucre; styles connate below middle; stigma 2-lobed. Capsule 3-lobed, 8 × 8 mm, smooth, sparsely pilose or glabrous. Seeds ovoid-globose, 4 × 4 mm, smooth; caruncle small (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016).

Plant Type

Top of page Perennial
Seed propagated
Succulent
Tree
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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The origin of the species is not clear, as Palgrave (1977) and Webb et al. (1984) believe E. tirucalli originated from Africa and was thereafter introduced to India, whereas Noad and Birnie (1989) state that it was introduced to Africa from India in prehistoric times since the name 'tirucalli' is the local name from Malabar in India. Mwine and Damme (2011) cite sources suggesting that it originated from tropical East Africa. It now occurs throughout tropical Africa (Ethiopia to South Africa) and India, and is widely planted and naturalized throughout the tropics and subtropics (Nguyen and Sosef, 1999; Govaerts, 2016). It can be found naturalized in tropical and subtropical Asia, America, the West Indies and on many islands in the Pacific Ocean (see distribution table for details, Orwa et al., 2009; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Govaerts, 2016; PIER, 2016).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
ChinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-AnhuiPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-FujianPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-GuangdongPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-GuizhouPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-HainanPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-Hong KongPresentIntroduced Invasive Wu, 2001
-HubeiPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-HunanPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-JiangsuPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-JiangxiPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-SichuanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-YunnanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
-ZhejiangPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
IndiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-Andhra PradeshPresent Natural
-Arunachal PradeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-AssamPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
-BiharPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-ChhattisgarhPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-Dadra and Nagar HaveliPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-DelhiPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-DiuPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-GoaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-GujaratPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-HaryanaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-Indian PunjabPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-JharkhandPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-KarnatakaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-KeralaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-Madhya PradeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-MaharashtraPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-OdishaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-PuducherryPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-RajasthanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-Tamil NaduPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
-West BengalPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
IndonesiaPresent Natural Govaerts, 2016
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
-JavaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
IsraelPresent Planted
JapanPresent Planted
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresent Natural
MaldivesPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
MyanmarPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
PakistanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
SingaporePresentIntroducedChong et al., 2009Cultivated
Sri LankaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016Cultivated and escaped
ThailandPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
VietnamPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016

Africa

AngolaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
BotswanaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
BurundiPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
ComorosPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
EritreaPresentNativeOrwa et al., 2009
EthiopiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
GhanaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
GuineaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
KenyaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
MadagascarPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
MalawiPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
MauritiusPresent Natural
MozambiquePresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
NamibiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
NigeriaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
RwandaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
Saint HelenaPresent Natural
SenegalPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
SeychellesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2016
SomaliaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
South AfricaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
SudanPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
SwazilandPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
TanzaniaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
UgandaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
ZambiaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2016
ZimbabwePresentNativeGovaerts, 2016

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2016
USAPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2016
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2016
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2016
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Lorence et al., 1995

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Guana, Tortola
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Vieques
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012St Croix, St John

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedOrwa et al., 2009
EcuadorPresentIntroducedJørgensen and León-Yánez, 1999Imbabura, Los Rios, Manabi
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedCharles Darwin Foundation, 2008Santa Cruz Is.

Oceania

Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2013Cultivated
FijiPresentIntroducedSmith, 1981
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFlorence et al., 2013Marquesas, Tahiti, Rurutu, Tubuai Is.
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2016
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedWhistler and Steele, 1999Cultivated
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedHerrera et al., 2010
NauruPresentIntroducedMacKee, 1994
PalauPresentIntroducedSpace et al., 2009
Wake IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2016
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2016

History of Introduction and Spread

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E. tirucalli has been widely commercialized and introduced into many regions to be used as an ornamental, hedge and potted plant (Orwa et al., 2009). However, very little is known about the history of introduction of this species, and it has been so widely cultivated that it is difficult to say where it occurs naturally and where it has been introduced. Voigt and Porter (2007) suggest that early traders and sailors carried plants from South Africa to India and the Far East, while Noad and Birnie (1989) state that it was introduced to Africa from India. In the West Indies, the first introductions probably occurred around the 1900s (US National Herbarium).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of E. tirucalli is moderate to high. This species is an attractive succulent cactus-like species widely commercialized as an ornamental. It has the potential to escape from cultivation and colonize new habitats forming dense thickets (Little et al., 1974).

Habitat

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E. tirucallioccurs in various habitats including dry and moist thickets, semiarid thickets, savannas, brushwood, open woodland and grassland, up to 2000 m altitude. It can also be found growing in grassy hills, rocky outcrops and ridges, and along river courses (Nguyen and Sosef, 1999; Orwa et al., 2009).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Arid regions Present, no further details Natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for E. tirucalli is 2n = 20 (Krishnappa and Reshme, 1982).

Reproductive Biology

E. tirucalli is a dioecious species. Plants producing male flowers are common, whereas plants with female flowers are much less common. Plants with bisexual cyathia also occur, although the female flower apparently often aborts. The flowers are yellow, inconspicuous, and carried in clusters at the apex of the short branches or in the angles of branches. Flowers are visited and pollinated by insects (Duke, 1983; Orwa et al., 2009; Mwine and Damme, 2011).

Physiology and Phenology

Within its native distribution range, E. tirucalli produces flowers in October and fruits from November to December (Orwa et al., 2009). In China, it has been recorded flowering and fruiting from July to October (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016).

E. tirucalli can grow very fast, and produce a lot of biomass even under very marginal soil and extreme climatic conditions. This can at least partly be explained by its rather unique combination of CAM stems and C3 leaves which allow it to assimilate CO2 during 24h per day (Mwine and Damme, 2011). It uses its green stems to photosynthesize and is therefore able to minimize surface exposure and water loss (Voigt and Porter, 2007).

Longevity

E. tirucalli is a perennial, drought resistant and very resilient plant adapted to grow in dry and semiarid habitats (Voigt and Porter, 2007).

Environmental Requirements

E. tirucalli is adapted to grow in areas with annual precipitation as low as 250-500 mm and annual temperature ranging from 21 to 28°C (Duke, 1983). It is well adapted to drought, salinity and infertile soil, but it does not tolerate frost. It is normally found in dry bushland thickets and naturalizes easily in brushwood, open woodland and grassland up to 2000 m (Orwa et al., 2009). This species appears to grow on almost any soil from pH ranging from 6 to 8.5 (Duke, 1983). The associated geology in its’ African habitats varies between granite, sandstone and rhyolite (Voigt and Porter, 2007).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 -30 10 2000

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 21 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 25 37
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 9 18

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration68number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2501000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Summer
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Meloidogyne incognita Parasite Other/All Stages not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The nematode Meloidogyne incognita infests plants of E. tirucalli in India (Orwa et al., 2009). Mwine and Damme (2011) reported that in Africa and India, infestation by Botrytis spp. causes the stems and roots to rot, especially in warm and humid conditions.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Within its native distribution range, E. tirucalli spreads by seeds. Fruits are eaten and dispersed by birds (Voigt and Porter, 2007). However, outside its native range, it rarely produces seeds, and thus it spreads mostly vegetatively by cuttings and stem fragments (Little et al., 1974).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoosWidely planted for ornamental purposes Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016
DisturbanceProtects bare soil in dry areas from wind and water Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Escape from confinement or garden escapeOften escaped from cultivation Yes Yes Little et al., 1974
Garden waste disposalCuttings and stem fragments Yes PIER, 2016
Habitat restoration and improvementPlanted for dune stabilization Yes Yes Little et al., 1974
Hedges and windbreaksOften planted as hedge and barrier plant Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
HorticultureWidely planted for ornamental purposes Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016
Landscape improvementWidely planted for ornamental purposes Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016
Medicinal useUsed in traditional African and Asian medicine Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Nursery tradeWidely planted for ornamental purposes Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016
Ornamental purposesWidely planted for ornamental purposes Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesOften spread by cuttings and stem fragments Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Negative

Environmental Impact

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E. tirucalli grows forming dense thickets that displaces native vegetation. In many tropical areas, E. tirucalli is able to establish thick woody vegetation tending towards a forest and it may form hedge-like barriers in invaded areas. This species has the potential to outcompete native plants for water and nutrients (Orwa et al., 2009; Mwine and Damme, 2011; PIER, 2016).

Social Impact

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The milk latex is highly poisonous, causing severe injury to the eyes and rash on the skin of humans (Little et al., 1974; Orwa et al., 2009). The milky sap is poisonous if taken internally (Little et al., 1974, Haevermans, 2004).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Induces hypersensitivity
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Economic Value

E. tirucalli has been used as a fish poison. It is also widely planted as a hedge and for ornamental purposes, especially in dry regions (Nguyen and Sosef, 1999; Orwa et al., 2009). In the West Indies, it is often planted as a hedge plant, potted plant and for dune stabilization (Little et al., 1974). The milky sap is also used as an insecticide and in East-Africa, it is used as gum. The white, close-grained, and fairly hard wood is used for rafters, toys and veneer (Orwa et al., 2009).

During the Second World War the latex was tested in South Africa as a rubber substitute, but it proved to be unstable unprofitable due to the high latex resin content. The oil obtained from the latex appeared useful for application in linoleum, oilskin and leather cloth industries (Nguyen and Sosef, 1999; Orwa et al., 2009).

E. tirucalli has potential as a drought-resistant biofuel crop. An investigation of the biogas production capacities of six E. tirucalli genotypes reveals biogas yields higher than from rapeseed but lower than maize silage (Hastilestari et al., 2013).

Social Benefit

In Asia, E. tirucalli is used in traditional medicine to heal broken bones, ulceration of the nose, haemorrhoids and swellings. Root scrapings, mixed with coconut oil, are given to cure stomach ache. An extract of the plant shows antibiotic activity (Nguyen and Sosef, 1999).

In Brazil, E. tirucalli is used in traditional medicine as an anti-helminthic, antisyphilitic and anti-tumoral agent. E. tirucalli has been confirmed to have larvicidal, mollucide, bactericidal and anti-herpes activity (Duke, 1983).

E. tirucalli has been promoted as an anticancer agent, but studies have shown that it suppresses the immune system, promotes tumour growth, and leads to the development of certain types of cancer. This species has also been associated with Burkitt's lymphoma and is thought to be a cofactor of the disease rather than a treatment (Bosch et al., 1993; Mwine and Damme, 2011).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Amenity
  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Revegetation
  • Soil conservation
  • Windbreak

Fuels

  • Fuelwood

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo

Materials

  • Gums
  • Oils
  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to fish
  • Poisonous to mammals
  • Rubber/latex
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material

Wood Products

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Roundwood

  • Posts
  • Roundwood structures

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
  • For light construction

Veneers

Wood gas (and other hydrocarbons

Woodware

  • Tool handles
  • Toys

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Euphorbia species are commonly confused with cacti. However, these two taxa can be easily distinguished due to the presence of sticky, milky-white latex in the Euphorbias, a trait that is absent in cacti. Additionally, flowers of Euphorbias are usually tiny and inconspicuous while cactus flowers are larger and showy. E. tirucalli has unmistakable, brush-like branch masses that are a noticeable feature of the plant (Voigt and Porter, 2007).

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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19/05/16 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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