This is an automatic translation in English from the original text in French
You can find this green plant in bloom right now. Looking at it closely you will find that it is aptly named. Roland
Scientific name: Euphorbia cyparissias L., 1753
Origin of the name: from the Greek “Euphorbia” which was the name of the doctor of the King of Mauritania, Juba here more than 2000 years ago, around - 40 BC. J.C. and "cyparissias", small cypress, because its appearance is somewhat reminiscent of that of a cypress.
German common name/dialect: Zypressen-Wolfsmilch
English name: cypress spurge
Date of observation: June 16 in Siersthal (57)
Plant family: that of the Euphorbiaceae which contains more than 8000 species distributed in 300 genera, both grasses and trees (such as the hourglass tree Hura crepitans , subject of a quiz on our blog) and even succulent plants similar to cactus. The majority of them are plants of very dry or xerophytic climates. They are very present in the tropics in the India Malaysia zone but also a little on all continents except very cold zones. The most interesting Euphorbiaceae at the economic level are: - for industry, the rubber tree that produces latex and is the basis of natural rubber - for food, cassava (Manihot esculenta) which is one of the most consumed plants in the world. Its latex is rich in toxins similar to cyanide. It must necessarily undergo a washing and cooking treatment to be consumed. In mainland France we have only two genera, Mercurialis and Euphorbia. This last genus is very rich in species with more than 2160 representatives worldwide. The most obvious common characteristic of Euphorbiaceae is the presence of a rarely yellow, poisonous white liquid called latex. It is contained in the stems and trunks. The plants are very variable and their complex flower is also very changeable.
Category: glabrous, bluish-green, perennial plant with many woody stems at the base and a complex, bushy inflorescence at the tip The injured parts leak a white latex which coagulates quickly.
Height: from 15 to 50 cm
Stems and roots: round stem, branched with opposite leaves, and very leafy branches
Leaves: linear from 1.5 to 4 cm for only 1 to 2 mm wide. Very leafy twigs below the inflorescence give this herb a small treelike appearance.
Flowering: from April to September Flower color: an umbel of 6 to 20 rays bears the flowers. At the base of the rays are small, triangular-shaped, light yellow leaves or bracts that will turn red when ripe. The dominant color of the flowers is greenish yellow. The flowers of this Euphorbia differ markedly from the classic flowers whose sepals, petals, stamens and pistils are clearly visible. Here, the flower is constituted by a cup formed of 5 welded leaf parts, it is the cyathum. Inside, 4 discs alternate with 5 groups of stamens. On this euphorbia, the yellow discs, which are nectariferous glands, have two horns at the ends. This shape is called crescent. Finally, much more visible, in the center, the pistil emerges from the cyathum with a bulge caused by the ovary. It consists of 3 fused carpels containing the ovules and extended by 3 stigmas. All this is very complicated, the best thing is to take a good magnifying glass (X10) and take the time to look at all these elements one by one on a flower of this species.
Pollination: by insects, especially bees
Fruits: glabrous capsules of 3 to 4 mm, covered with very fine tubercles. The seeds are round and brown. Their dissemination is favored by the ejection of the seeds up to several meters outside the capsule when it is ripe and dry. It is mainly myrmecochoric (provided by ants).
Habitat: This plant is calcicole and likes poor soils, such as meadows, meadows, wasteland, roadsides, dunes, scree up to 2400 m.(7500 f)
Protection: this fairly common plant has been assessed as VU, vulnerable in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. Outside its region of origin, Eurasia, the plant can be invasive as in the United States. In Colorado and in other states, where it had been introduced to decorate the gardens, it is declared "vegetable plague" as it spreads to the detriment of local plants, especially by its roots.
Parasite: This little cypress spurge is often the victim of parasitic fungi. Pea Rust, Uromyces pisi transforms the small tree-like appearance of our spurge into a bland weed with tiny, linear leaves without any visible flowers. The tip of the plant then produces a nectar and an attractant for certain insects which facilitates the dissemination of the spores. By observing these plants, we see that the underside of the leaves is covered with orange spores (beware, a quiz on this subject avoided this week but to be expected). Note that the main hosts of this rust are plants of the pea family, Fabaceae.
Food usefulness: none because this plant is toxic. The latex is the milky sap of the Cypress Spurge. It contains 15% resin, rubber, starch and other components. It is extremely pungent and bitter. It is undoubtedly a defense of the plant to avoid being grazed by herbivorous animals. Some insects when they are in the caterpillar stage feed on it, such as the spurge hawk-moth, Hyles euphorbia. Transported to countries without its natural predators like this sphinx, abandoned by sheep and other grazers, this euphorbia becomes invasive.
Medicinal and veterinary use: This euphorbia was used in the past for its purgative and laxative effects, for toothaches, warts,… but its toxicity makes its use very delicate. Its latex is very irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Its bracts carry at maturity very small particularly irritating hairs. They are to be avoided at all costs as they can remain under the skin for years. It is recommended not to touch this plant with bare hands but with gloves. As always, and before any use, you should consult a doctor to be warned of possible adverse effects as well as possible interactions with conventional medications. The components of latex have real therapeutic properties. They remain poorly known but effects have been observed on cancers and viruses. Repellent and insecticidal activities were also found. The latex contains sesquiterpenoids in particular cariophyllene oxide, volatile components such as monoterpenes (beta-cyclodextrin). Veterinarians have tested this latex against parasites like mites and ticks in pets. Extensive application tests have been conducted as the reactions on the skin are strong.
Text and photos: Roland Gissinger (ANAB) proofreading Bernard Weinzaepflen
Bibliographic sources see biodiversity index Research on the therapeutic activities of Euphorbia cyparissias (June 2008) in English
Activity of Euphorbia cyparissias extracts on ticks (July 2010)