- History and Culture
Euphorbia pyrifolia is a spineless shrub or small tree that can grow up to 5 meters tall. The plant is usually deciduous, glabrous, and strongly branched. It has a greyish pale bark and copious amount of latex in all parts of the plant. Its leaves are simple, lanceolate, entire and are arranged spirally on top of the stem apex.
It produces various amount of flowers which are yellowish and have nectar-producing glands. The inflorescence is in a cluster called a ‘cyathium’ consisting of one female and many male flowers. Capsules are always triangular, containing three seeds.
It is commonly found in dry and intermediate forests and is a pioneer undergrowth plant that can colonize an area quickly. The plant produces many fruits which are dispersed naturally and germinate easily.
This species is considered ‘Vulnerable’, although it is commonly found in the forest and form part of the pioneer undergrowth. Over the last years observations show that the population size is decreasing due to habitat loss and the spread of exotic plants.
The latex produced by Euphorbia is usually caustic and toxic, and contact with the skin often causes irritation and blistering; contact with the eyes causes temporary or even permanent blindness; whilst ingestion can cause purging or more severe problems.
A decoction of the aerial parts is ingested to treat tetanus.
In the past, the latex was applied to the skin to treat scabies and used as a poison against rodents.