Euphorbia hypericifolia: Graceful spurge

Family: Euphorbiaceae
Common name: Graceful spurge, Baby’s breath euphorbia, Graceful sandmat, Large spotted spurge, Milk purslane, Chamaesyce hypericifolia

Graceful spurge plants are seen very commonly in the wild, in grassy areas, gardens, agricultural land, open areas and almost anywhere. The plant is characterized by an erect, unbranched stem growing to a height of about half a meter.

The stem is red in color and stands out from other grass and wild plants. Leaves are green, opposite, simple and oblong about 3-4 cms long. They are lightly toothed along the margins, and having tiny hairs.

These plants belong to the spurge family of Euphorbiaceae, and is characterized by a milky sap in the stem and leaves. This sap is toxic, similar to Crown of thorns or Euphorbia milii, Poinsettia or Euphorbia pulcherrima; and hence these plants must be handled with care. They can cause skin allergies and irritations on contact; stomach pain and vomiting on ingestion.

The inflorescence is also typical of the Castor family or Spurge family, wherein the actual flowers are reduced to a bare minimum structure, of a single pistil surrounded by stamens. The flowers are contained inside large showy bracts which are white or pink in color. Fruits are small, greenish-red, capsule-like containing tiny greyish-purple seeds.

These graceful spurge plants are considered to be toxic weeds in most countries, since they can grow and reproduce very quickly; taking over lawns and agricultural areas, choking other vegetation. They are tolerant of drought, heat, pollution, salinity, poor soil conditions and extreme sunlight; thriving under all conditions.

In spite of the toxicity and weed-like nature of the plant, it has some medicinal properties in traditional herbal medicine. Decoction made from the entire plant is used in treating gastrointestinal disorders, dysentery, colic, diarrhea and discharges. The latex is used in treating cuts and wounds.

Propagation is from seeds and stem cuttings.