Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flowering Spurge

Flowering Spurge, Euphorbia corollata. I wanted to get this plant’s name out first so I could remember what it’s actually called. No matter what I do, my mind insists on attaching the name milkwort to this plant and this is not a milkwort. Maybe it’s the milky white flowers or the milky sap that flows from a broken stem, but when I look at this plant, the name spurge is not present in my mind. Some suggest that the problem is with my mind and not with the plant.

The flowers form in loose clusters atop a leafy stalk. The yellow centers represent the flowers which are surrounded by five sparkling white bracts. Even though each bloom is only about a quarter of an inch across, they are quite showy.

The plants are often unnoticed until you get close. When numerous, the flowers almost glow in the setting sun and give the appearance of a low mist settling on the field.

Each plant has a single stalk bearing an alternating arrangement of simple leaves. The stalks are effectively hidden in the tall grass early in the season. It’s always a surprise when the flowers open and you see all of the plants.

The plant claims very little space at ground level, but things change at the top. The narrow column of leaves, sometimes as tall as three feet, suddenly sprouts a widely diverging collection of stems. These stems are what bear the flower clusters.

A plant that only takes a couple of square inches of ground space suddenly reaches out to claim a large portion of the above ground prairie. The tallness of this plant sometimes confuses people who are used to the ground creeping species of spurge that are most commonly encountered in gravel driveways and bare, weedy places. Spurges are a diverse group of plants that take on many forms.

To make things even more interesting, the flower grows an interesting fruit that develops on the end of a stalk emerging from the center of the flower. This is a characteristic of spurges that cannot be mistaken.


  1. That spurge is a great plant out in a wild, open field. I like the misty look you describe and show. And the knobby fruit is quite interesting. Do those knobs weigh the plant down as they develop?

  2. Hi Steve...I'm not going to go there with the problem of your mind or not, somethings are best unsaid!! ; }
    It seems this plant knows when to shows its pretty little face.
    The fruit..what a fasinating thing!!

  3. Wilma - The fruit never gets large enough to weigh down the plant. The stems are rather strong and stand long after the plant dies back for the winter.

    Hi, grammie g. My daughter is in college studying psychology. I like to think she chose that major just so she could understand her father.

  4. Dang - now I've got the name milkwort associated with this plant ;)

  5. Sorry, Ted. Once that association is made, I'm afraid it's permanent.