Euphorbia Mili, or Crown of Thorns, houseplant in US, landscaping plant in Philippines

 

This little beauty is called Euphorbia milii:

Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns, Christ plant, Christ thorn) is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family Euphorbiaciae, native to Madagascar. The species name commemorates Baron Milius, once Governor of Réunion, who introduced the species to France in 1821

Why is this pretty flower called Crown of Thorns or Christ thorn?
You can just see the stem above, if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a closer view:

That’s why. It’s a tropical cactus.

This is also grown as a houseplant in the US, and it grows freely outside here (more of a landscaping plant in the Philippines, I think. It is native to Madagascar.)
If you get one, be careful. Its defenses are formidable. Not only are there those brutal looking thorns, there is an irritating, tumour causing sap connected with the flowers, which is insoluble in water once it dries. Use gloves and touch as little as possible.

If you can find a real specimen, look very, very closely at the flowers. The flower is actually the small, fleshier looking center. The things that look like petals are actually bracts. More about the flowers (called cyathia) here.

genus euphorbia has 2,000 species.

According to this website: Linnaeus established the genus Euphorbia and he named it after a Greek surgeon called Euphorbus. He was the physician of Juba II, about 50 BC to 19 AD, the Roman king of a of Numidia, present day Algeria.
King Juba II was the first person to find a succulent-type Euphorbia, and he named it after his physician. Euphorbus used the milky sap as an ingredient for his potions.
The name “milii” is for Baron Milius, once governor of the island of Bourbon, who introduced the species into cultivation in France in 1821.
“Splendens” means splendid.
The legend says that the crown of thorns worn by Christ at the time of his crucifixion was made from the stems of this plant. Interestingly, the stems of this plant are pliable and can be intertwined into a circle and there are substantial evidence that the species had been brought to the Middle East before the time of Christ.
(From Dr. T. Ombrello Notes, Union County College, NJ.)

(Information for this species compiled and recorded by Camelia Cirnaru, NTBG Consultant.)

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