Euphorbia is a genus of plants commonly known as Spurge. There are about 2000 species in this genus including the familiar Christmas Poinsettias and the Rubber Tree. In South Africa some Euphorbia have developed characteristics very similar to Cacti and are often incorrectly referred to as such. All Euphorbia species contain a milky white, toxic sap in the stem and leaves which can severely irritate the skin on contact.
The Wood Spurge is a species native to Europe and to Southern England. It grows in woodland and shaded hedgerow. It is an evergreen perennial and the small plants are a common sight in winter.
The Wood Spurge has a complex and very unusual flower. The green buds that you see in these pictures are not really flower buds, they are a pair of modified leaves that contain an unusual flower head.
The “Bud” is called a cyathium (plural, cyathia) sometimes referred to as a “false flower” and it contains the inflorescence of the Spurge.
There is quite a lot going on inside each cyathium. There are four small “horse shoe” shaped glands, called “Involucral glands”, these glands are not part of the flowers themselves but part of the cyathium, they produce nectar.
The flowers themselves are the small two lobed yellow anthers in the centre of the horse shoes. There is nothing more to the flowers than a single stamen with two yellow anthers at the top. The anthers produce pollen.
The cyathium also produces a female flower. It consists of nothing more than a three lobed stigma (pollen receiving organ) leading down to an ovary. The female flower is produced before the male flowers that I have shown you and drops down out of the way when the male flowers arrive to avoid self pollination. I don’t have photographs of the stigma at this time.
It sounds complex but it is not that difficult to understand. The horse shoes are producing nectar, the flowers are just the stamens in the middle and the buds are new flower heads with all the same stuff inside them.
It is a lime green flower and it is beautiful.
Species: Euphorbia amygdaloides