Plant of the Week: Wild Spurge

Euphorbia corollata is one of three kinds of Euphorbia that you can find on the High Line. It's a small herbaceous perennial that features tall slender stems, alternate leaves and dainty looking flowers. In the wild, Euphorbia corollata can be found growing in the woods and fields of the United States and Canada. It has a fairly long bloom time and will bloom from June through October and grows up to a height of 3' tall. It's a pollinator plant and thus makes a beneficial addition to the garden as well as a fine choice as an ornamental plant.

Euphorbia corollata belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family of flowering plants. Euphorbiaceae have adapted to most climates around the world and can be found globally except for the Arctic and cold alpine regions. Euphorbiaceae flowers are monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers can be found on the same plant. Fruits are usually dry capsules that split open when ripe.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

The Euphorbia genus is very diverse and covers a wide range of plants from small annuals and succulents to large trees. The name Euphorbia is thought to have been given to this genus of flowering plants by King Juba of the African nation of Mauritania. It is said that King Juba was a very intelligent man and had a great deal of knowledge about botany and medicine. Upon discovering the purging properties of a plant found in his domain, he took it to his physician, Euphorbus and named the plant in his honor. Its common name, spurge was modified from the French term "espurge," meaning to purge.

"Corollata," is Latin for "like a flower," and was given to this species of Euphorbia as the nectar glands closely resemble a complete corolla, or the complete set of petals on a flower. What we see as the petals are actually the petal-like extensions of the nectar glands.

The small green nectar glands and their extensions can easily be mistaken for petals on the Euphorbia corollata. Photo by Ayinde Listhrop
Native Americas used Euphorbia corollata for medicinal purposes. The Meskwaki tribe combined it with the fruit of the Staghorn sumac and the Bur Oak for treatment of pinworms, and also as a laxative and a cathartic. Euphorbias were used as a purge across almost the entirety of North America by other tribes and settlers.

Despite its popularity in early medicine, many species of Euphorbia can be toxic with high dosages. Euphorbia sap, including that of the

Euphorbia corollata, contains many chemical compounds that can cause eye irritation and cause skin to become photosensitive. Direct skin, air contact and ingestion is ill-advised. It and other forums of Euphorbia can be fatal to cattle if grazed on. In parts of southern Africa, the sap of the Euphorbia ingens and Euphorbia cooperi have been used in fishing. The leaves and stems were ground into a paste and mixed with grass. The grass was then thrown into a pond or cordoned off section of a river, temporarily stunning and paralyzing fish for collection. Other species of Euphorbia became staple additives to hunting poisons and were added to poison arrows, not as a toxin, but to increase irritation.

On the other hand, the rubbery sap of Euphorbias help plants protect themselves, as it helps to seal wounds and kill bacteria. Many would be herbivores looking for a green snack are also warded off by the sticky latex.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop

Euphorbia corollata is happiest when planted in full sun and dry soil. It can tolerate almost any kind of soil, including soil that consists of sand, clay, gravel and loam. Poorer soils may even be preferred so as to reduce competition from other plants. It will become drought tolerant and relatively disease free as long as the soil has good drainage. It can be propagated by division, root cuttings or seeds. Seeds can be planted immediately in the fall, or in the spring after cold stratification.

USDA zone 3-9


You can find Euphorbia corollata in the Washington Grasslands between Little West 12th and West 13th Streets, on the Northern Spur Preserve at West 16th Street and the Rail Track Walks on West 30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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