Euphorbia hedyotoides (2008)

By Eric Driskill (November 2008)

Euphorbia hedyotoides is a root-succulent shrub found in Alluadia forests between Amboasary and Fort Dauphin in southern Madagascar. E. hedyotoides was described by Croizat as Euphorbia decariana in 1934, however, N. E. Brown described it in 1909 as E. hedyotoides, which is the valid species name.

It develops an underground caudex, variably shaped up to 12 inches long and as much as 8 inches in diameter. The plants are spineless, densely branched and up to 5 feet tall. The one or more stems are woody and up to 1.2 inches thick with gray-brown bark. Woody, thin branches are produced 12 to 20 inches above ground. Deciduous leaves, in groups of three to five, can vary in size and shape on the same plant, from long and linear to oblong and spatulate, straight or curving.

With the caudex underground and the non-succulent branches above, Euphorbia hedyotoides doesn’t look like a succulent at all until you raise the plant, exposing the caudex. Most books report that only seed-grown plants develop the single large caudex, and cuttings result in plants that form thick-branched roots. I have not propagated this plant enough to know if you can get a single-caudex plant from a cutting, but I do have thick-branching roots on a seed-grown plant.

E. hedyotoides is a typical warm weather grower that you can grow in full or partial sun. It is not a particularly difficult or rot-prone plant to grow.

I have grown this plant for the last three years in a free-root-run bed, planting in the spring and potting in the fall to bring it into the greenhouse for the winter. Each year, I measure each plant when I plant it in the bed and again when repotting. The first year growing in the ground, the roots went from 2 to 5 inches in diameter. The second year, they eached 7.5 inches and the third year 9 inches.

E. hedyotoides makes a great bonsai subject and can be pruned and trained rather easily. It is an example of a very nice Madagascan plant that isn’t difficult to care for, can easily be manipulated and is a beautiful specimen once grown for several years. The biggest challenge with this plant is the patience it takes to leave the caudex hidden underground for the years it takes to get to an impressive size.