Saturday, November 26, 2011

Euphorbia tirucalli ...... Pencil Cactus


   pencil cactus or aveloz

               a dioecious succulent, cactus-like milky shrub eventually becoming a large tree, devoid of spines, to 10 m tall,  indigenous to Eastern & Southern Africa and used as a hedge in Brazil.  

The leaves are small and slender, up to 12 x 1.5 mm, rarely seen, as they fall very early.

The bracts are yellow and the flowers tiny,inconspicuous, and carried in clusters at the apex of the short branches or inthe angles of branches.

It has a a rangy, open growth habit, and is more valued for its novelty than the beauty of its foliage.

Pencil cactus can be trimmed back if they become too large, but be careful to  prevent irritation from the milky sap.
It can easily grow into a 6 foot specimen planted in a large pot. 

As with all succulents, it’s better to let it dry out rather than risk over watering and rot.

Cortijo Azahar has a small pot grown specimen from a cutting taken not much more than a year ago. 

The family name Euphorbiaceae and genus name Euphorbia were named in honour of a Linnaean hero namely Euphorbus, first century physician to King Juba of Mauritania. He is believed to have used plants of this genus as medicine.

The species name tirucalli was given by Linnaeus in 1753 as this was the name used by the natives of Malabar, a region of southern India.

The rubber-hedge has been so widely cultivated that it is now difficult to say where it occurs naturally and where it has been introduced.

Early traders and sailors carried plants from South Africa to India and the Far East, and the fact that these have all flourished, gives us some idea of the incredible resilience of the plant.
 This is a stunning variety named 'Firesticks' which we have not yet been able to locate. 

 It lacks the chlorophyl of it's parent. The best colour is produced in winter.