Please help ID this Euphorbia (?)

Jeffrey Schneider
December 14, 2007


I purchased this Euphorbia (?) and was wondering if anyone could identify it. It's rather ubiquitous in NYC nurseries.

Link to images or plant:

Thank you!!!


Comments (15)

  • rigo74

    Hey nyccocnut! The Euphorbia that you have is called a Pencil Cactus\Milkbush (Euphorbia Tirucalli). The sap of this plant is poisonous so be careful. I have one that is about 5' tall and I keep it in full sun during the summer. Right now it is asleep in my garage for the winter.

  • reiver

    Very nice plant. It is a really nice presentation, plant and pot!
    I have two Tirucalli (one is a Firestick)and I would love to free up some space in my picture window for the winter. I have a small window I could place them near in my garage. I am in the DFW area. How low can you go temp wise with Tirucalli?

  • pirate_girl

    It's not really poisonous as stated above (I sort of object to the over/mis-use of that word in plant circles).

    Rather, it's sap is known to be a skin irritant. So really, pls. use all caution, even rubber gloves if you've got any handy, being esp. careful not to touch any of your face, esp. mucous membranes after handling this plant.

    That said, while I don't grow this anymore, I have other Euphs. w/ potential for skin irritation. While I have never had a problem, I work w/ Euphs. bare-handed but w/ a bottle of water at hand. Water will staunch the flow of the white sap, as will cigarette ask. So just squirt water at any ends you cut, wash carefully & you the plant should be fine (nice pix, cool pot)!


  • Jeffrey Schneider

    I don't know about simply being an irritant... I was reading about care of the plant online and a gentleman rubbed his eyes (when sap was on his hands) and mouth and ended up in the hospital with anaphylactic shock.

    Thank you Mike! I think the plant is so simple and architectural that it deserves a minimalistic presentation. It really accentuates the beautiful structure and lines of the plant.

  • pirate_girl

    That's the caution abt the mucous members, eyes, mouth, the absorbent, soft, very permeable tissues of the body.

    Anaphylactic shock is usually from a severe allergic reaction, like to bee sting or peanuts & can be quite fatal (if the throat swells shut, etc.). But I'd still take some of those stories w/ a big grain of salt.

    Still, I DID say caution is in order. If you observe the cautions I advised, you'll be fine & if worried DO wear the gloves.

    Yes, I agree, it's a strikingly handsome plant, simplicity serves it well & I hope it does well for you.

  • rigo74

    I have both tirucalli(Firestick)and the regular. Both are kept in the garage only with the help of a small lamp that I picked up at ace hardware. Temp in garage is around 40 or so.

  • Jeffrey Schneider

    thanks everyone!!!

    my euphorbia is settling into it's new home. only a few tiny branches have shriveled up because of the initial shock of transplant and the watering to get rid of any air pockets in the soil.

    by the way, if anyone is having trouble with drooping, i highly recommend velcro plant ties (the velcro is soft on the inside to protect the plant and green on the outside so it blends in) and monofilament (heavy fishing wire) tied to an eye screw in the wall to support the euphorbia. my euphorbia has a bit of a curvature and i have the trunk loosely supported in case it decides to lean further.


  • sambal

    Hi. I'm new to the Forums and finding them fascinating and helpful and fun! I red the description of the way you have suported you 'cylindraca' and I'm wondering if I could use the same method on a few of my cacti that are leaning WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY over. They are nice and plummp and helathy as far as I can determine, but last winter, I was undergoing chemo and had them lined up in front of a large, west window. Well, they leaned west. My husband was the 'water man', but I didn't bother him with turning plants. Actually, I didn't even know they were leaning. This summer, I sat them on a table that has a southern exposure. A few of them straightened, but the large ones, seem to be too heavy. (however the 'bonus' was alot of bloom). Most of these cacti were grown from a package of mixed seeds from Park's, that were sown 7 years ago. So, I'm rather attached to them. This will no doubt show my age, but I usually use a cut up pair of panty hose to tie up many of my joke intended. Its soft and will give alittle, and you can get alot of 'ties' from one pair.
    Anyway, I think your system may work for me. Anyone have any solutions?

  • Jeffrey Schneider

    i found the velcro ties at

    as i mentioned, they blend right into the plant. with an eyescrew in the wall (painted the color of the wall) or tying the branches together with monofilament, you can't see the ties from a few feet away.

    i would start pulling the plant gently with the monofilament (attached to the velcro) and keep applying pressure over time.

    let me know if you would like some pictures of how i have tied my pencil cactus and i would be happy to post them on my blog.


  • dufflebag2002

    Pirate girl don't under estimate the dangers of this plant. A group of children played soccer in the scoool playgrold and rubbed against this plant that was used for a fence several years, many came down with cancer, it only happened in this village, the yard was ringed with Euphoria as a fence, that seems dangerous to me. My neighbor has a dog that ended up in the hospital, we called the poisen center, and the son of the owner of he dog also ended up in the hospital, I asked them to remove that Euphoria, and it wasn't an "Pencil Plant" many are toxic, we had a batch of E. obessa eaten by rats, and we found the rats dead a few days later, hidden among the plants in the nursery. Euphoria is just not safe around children or animals, you must not rub against it, you must wash hands and any latex that may stick on. I had a friend that was a Euphorbia specialist and a Professor of Chemistry, he ended up in the hospital.
    He knew the antidote and still he went to the hospital.
    Jeff, take care, I never want to be called 2:00 in the morning again with a mother in panic. You must respect what you don't know, because that is what can kill you. Norma

  • pirate_girl

    Well OK Norma, I stand corrected. For anybody that's newish here, Norma REALLY knows her plants, like decades worth, so I will defer to her.

    But then too Norma, if I understood correctly, didn't you go on to say these were Euphs. other than tirucalli that caused such horrendous injuries?

    Still, certainly caution is the word all around, eh??? So gloves could never hurt!

  • dufflebag2002

    No E. tirucalli is one of the worse, they are many others that can be toxic. Even if you wear cloves and classes to protect the eyes, what if you scratch your nose or mouth or eyes, or while wearing gloves? who is going to drive you to the hospotal if it gets in your eyes, where Dr. Linden spent two days? You can use milk to wash it off or out of your eyes, or Aeonium Lindley. I am not critizing you only pointing out what I know first hand. We do not sell them with out a red label on the plant, and I explain this to any one that wants to purchase one of these plants. They turn a gorgeous red in the right conditions, and there is also a brown/green form. Norma

  • pirate_girl

    Hi Norma,

    It's OK, I know you're not criticizing, just pointing out. That's why I'm deferring to you, you know lots more abt this than I, especially if you're involved in selling them. Besides, I don't even grow these.

    All that said, I'm not an fan of Euphs. & for years I resisted, yet I've got 5 now for abt 3-5 yrs. An E. lophogona (having its 1st bloom ever, right now), E. milii marlotti (or moratii?), some lemon yellow no ID milii type (called Lemondrop?), E. francoisii & some no ID dwarf-milii type.

    Happily these don't need a lot of pruning, when I repot them I'm very careful, but haven't really had much contact w/ the sap.

    Jeff H did use to mention the Aeonium lindleyii remedy, but that's an Aeonium that I rarely run into, don't know if it is grown much in the Northeast.

  • Gwaeraurond_yahoo_com

    um.. ok, there is allot of useful information here, but too much misinformation mixed in.

    I have a Green Euphorbia Tirucalli. I have been exposed to the milk directly on my skin, and got vapors from the milk in the eye. I experienced *NO* negative reaction at all, and in my eye, I actually found my vision problems related to weakened eye muscles improved.

    Before this, I thought too the horror stories were the Norm. But they are not. The people with strong negative reactions are really experiencing a kind of allergy.

    I did quite a bit of research since then, and it seems it has been used for everything from wart treatment to removing moles, to cancer treatment.

    A friend of mine decided to intentionally expose herself, to see if the benefits were true. We applied one drop only to one of her moles. We waited a few minutes, no irritation, no inflammation, no pain at all. So we decided not to wash it off. She didn't wash at all until the next day. A few weeks later, the mole had flattened into her skin. It hasn't been itchy since and she plans to have all of her moles treated the same way.

    It seems that if you experience any irritation at all, the plant is harmful and has no benefit at all to be exposed. But even so, the type of negative reaction isn't very consistent. Some get minor irritation, others get full blown blisters. It really depends on the individual, but taking antihistamines like Aspirin right after makes a big difference if you get exposed.

    But of those who don't have a negative reaction, there are all kinds of benefits to exposure.

    It also seems that the level of toxicity may be related to soil conditions. Such as how much it is watered, etc. People who had bad reactions reported poor water and soil conditions.

    For mine, I have peat soil blended with pearlite. (I couldn't find soil without peat.) The bottom 2 inches of the oversize pot all pearlite for drainage. And I have plant food mixed into the soil. I water it often with spring water, and keep a heater near it so cold air from the window doesn't harm it. I also keep a mirror near the pot to direct more light in.

    I fully enjoy my plant, how it looks, and how much it helps me. I can't stress enough how positive an experience I have had and so cannot stress enough that while it may be dangerous to some, not to all!

  • joscience

    For someone who has a problem with misinformation, it is unfortunate that you are helping to spread more.

    First off, you are extremely lucky not to have had serious problems getting it in your eye. I assure you it is the "norm" for people to have severe irritation with exposure of Euphorbia latex to the eye. In fact, there are medically documented cases of E. tirucalli in particular causing permanent blindness. It's true that a person's response all depends on their individual sensitivity, but it should still be treated as dangerous until demonstrated otherwise.

    In addition to personal sensitivity, it also strongly depends on how the plant is grown. A plant given the proper amount of sun and nutrients (tons of the former, very little of the second) will be far, far more irritating than a plant grown indoors in poor conditions. A healthy plant produces more toxins to protect itself than a plant that is just struggling to survive. I would be willing to be that most people who have been exposed to E. tirucalli without any affect were exposed to latex from an overwatered, etiolated plant. Those same people exposed to the latex from a plant grown outdoors in full sun would likely have a painful reaction.

    Even the 'benefits' you are talking about demonstrate the caustic nature of the latex. Mole and wart treatments always just kill the top layer of skin, either chemically (salicylic acid for commercial products) or mechanically (by freezing for example). Even though your latex wasn't strong enough to cause irritation, it was still toxic enough to destroy the top layer of skin that formed the mole...

    Asprin is not an antihistamine. It is an analgesic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It does help ease the pain of latex irritation, but not through any treatment of an allergy. It simply reduces the inflammation that sensitizes nerves. A much better treatment for Euphorbia latex exposure is to apply a few drops of sap from Aeonium lindleyi to the afflicted area. This is a well know antidote, and any serious Euphorbia collector will always have some on hand for an emergency. One gentleman in the Long Beach Cactus Club may very well have saved a friend's eyesight with this. Portulacaria afra is also supposed to serve as an antidote, but not as effectively as A. lindleyi.

    Finally, adding a layer of perlite/gravel/pumice to the bottom of a pot actually increases the amount of water the soil above it holds, doing the complete opposite "improving drainage." The soggiest soil is always at the bottom of the pot, and the layer of gravel only serves to "raise" the bottom of the pot, bringing the soggy soil closer to the base of the plant. The gravel is too coarse to wick away the water in the soil column.

    I fully enjoy my E. tirucalli and would never consider getting rid of it. I'm certainly not afraid of it, but I do treat it with a reasonable amount of caution and respect, because in the end, it *is*...

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268