Monday, May 7, 2012

Euphorbs: mixed messages...

Exhibit number one: Euphorbia cyparissius 'Fen's Ruby'--a plant I brought back from a March visit to Chanticleer many years ago. I wouldn't want to be without this plant, and it is likely I shan't ever be without it (it is determined to stay put)...although it was recently removed from the Rock Alpine Garden for its unbridled exuberance...but between a wall and a rock or along a path, I find it is relatively easy to subdue. The Euphorbia clan is decidedly a mixed bag. Some are irrepressible weeds, others are rare as hens teeth. It's the weeds I'm concerned with....
Exibit two...Euphorbia nicaensis: looks just a tad weedy doesn't it? In my experience, it sees little and spreads modestly from the root...been waiting for a seedling to commandeer...In another garden perhaps it is a thug. For me, it is a prize. Although it has the typical chartreuse charms of the genus, I find its form to be pleasing and it has fall color to boot. Alas, it is has a local look-alike:
The picture above and the closeup below are of Euphorbia esula, one of the worst weeds of the northern Midwest and Rocky Mountain area...growing contentedly in a container provided by the city of Aurora. I could have posted pictures of this from all over Denver as well. Despite the fact that this is an undeniable noxious weed, little seems to be done to eliminate it in the Denver metropolitan area.
 Instead, the dreaded "donkey spurge" of the Mediterranean is the Metro areas culprit (an undeniable pest in the foothills, but hardly a problem in metro Denver gardens where homeowners love it). I do not seem to have a good picture of the much maligned Euphorbia myrsinites, which I have a grudging fondness for (and all kids seem to love it too, by the way: it is so quaintly reptilian). I am concerned that there is insufficient warning to homeowners (upon whose doors a rather threatening citation is being hung as I type this) that they are very likely to suffer severe lesions and burns removing the offending weed unless they take great precautions to protect their skin (let's not even talk about eyes--it can cause blindness)...
Why, prithee, is the rather attractive Euphorbia myrsinites being targeted instead of the much more invasive Euphorbia esula? Could there not possibly be that puritanical environmental extremists might have a hangup about ornamentals? Euphorbia myrsinites occupies a fraction of the range that Euphorbia esula has usurped in Colorado. Euphorbia esula causes devastating damage to range land and cattle: I believe this is a great example of the misplaced priorities and myopia that have so often hampered and compromised the environmental movement. Time and again they target horticulture rather than the real culprits that operate on a colossal, industrial scale. Let's begin by getting the damn E. esula out of the Metro area first! But then you couldn't hang warnings on doors--you'd have to actually go out and weed.

To end on a slightly more positive note...the above is a wonderful dwarf Euphobia capitulata from the Balkans, a plant I have loved for more years than I can say...why? it is so tiny, and so modest in its charms. Euphorbias are an acquired taste.
One of the largest genera of flowering plants, it is enormously polymorphic in foliage, stem and blossom. I end with my favorite of all Euphorbia, the succulent clump former of the high Drakensberg, Euphorbia clavarioides var. truncata. I took the picture above on an enchanting March day on Ben McDhui in the East Cape fourteen years ago. I doubt this shall be targeted by the weed police in the immediate future (thank Heavens!)--my two little clumps are not quite fifty cent piece in size yet...but just you wait, Enry Iggins!

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