Euphorbia coerulescens (2018)

PhotoBy Joe Merkelbach (February 2018)

The name for Euphorbia coerulescens in Afrikaans, the European-created language of southern Africa, is Sweet Noor or Noorsduring. It is such a common species in the ravines and on the hilltops of the East Cape Province that the area is called the Noorsveld. The plants are more prominent on the north-facing slopes – the sunny side in the Southern Hemisphere.

The “sweet” appellation perhaps has reference to the rather benign latex of the plant. The tops can be cut off the plants and allowed to wilt for a few days before being used for livestock fodder. The common name for E. coerulescens, blue euphorbia, refers to its light blue-green color.

In habitat, the stems grow upwards from underground rhizomes. Mature plants have a tight grouping of stems up to 20 in number and reaching 1.5 meters in height. The stems, which average 5 centimeters in diameter, can have between four and six faces with rows of paired double thorns arranged vertically in felted-looking strips.

The stems grow in expanded and restricted segments, looking something like etiolation due to variations in growing conditions. Specimen plants seem to be more prone to branching than naturally occurring plants.

The small, yellow female and brown male flowers occur in strips toward the tops of the stems. Small ephemeral leaves, only about two millimeters in length, occur on new-growth stem tips in the same locations as the flowers.

Euphorbia coerulescens can handle light frosts, but would not survive outside planting during our St. Louis winters. It requires good drainage, with plenty of pumice or pea-sized gravel in the potting mix.

Its reputation is as a relatively fast grower that requires a bit of shade when first moved outside in the spring to protect against sunburn.

Cactus Art – Euphorbia_coerulescens/Euphorbia_coerulescens/Euphorbia_coerulescens.htm
Operation Wildflower –