Firestick succulent (Euphorbia tirucalli L.) belongs to the genus Euphorbia, one of the 8,000 species within the family Euphorbiaceae. Indigenous to tropical eastern Africa where it often grows wild, it is usually planted for boundary demarcation but also as a live fence around compounds, shrines, and kraals (a traditional African village of huts).
The stems are a dazzling display of vivid red, orange, and yellow hues, often mimicking the appearance of flames, which led to its evocative name. These stems serve a dual purpose of photosynthesis and water storage, enabling the plant to thrive even in arid environments.
These popular ornamental plants can be placed in offices, homes and also grown on lawns. It is preferred for its ease of maintenance and beautiful evergreen pencil-like branches because of which it is also known as the Pencil tree. It has thin, usually leafless succulent stems.
Its younger branches are evergreen, longitudinal, succulent, about 7 mm thick and are usually produced in whorls, rarely single, giving it a broom-like structure. It can grow between 4 to 12 m high with an adult trunk diameter of 15 to 20 cm. A new cultivar of this species turns pinkish-red in bright light.
Firestick succulent Environmental Adaptability
One of the most impressive features of the Firestick Plant is its ability to survive in harsh and drought-prone conditions. Originating from arid regions, this resilient plant has developed an efficient mechanism to conserve water. Its succulent nature allows it to store water within its stems, providing a buffer against prolonged periods of dryness.
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Euphorbia tirucalli can survive in a wide range of habitats. It can grow under conditions in which most crops and other trees cannot grow like tropical arid areas with low rainfall, on poor eroded soils, saline soils. It cannot survive frost and low temperatures.
The species epithet is derived from tiru-calli, a local name given to the plant on the Malabar Coast of India. There is a hypothesis that the plant came to that part of the world with Portuguese travelers who had traveled from Portugal to East Africa and then further to India.
Firestick succulent poisonous
Euphorbia tirucalli contains a white latex which is vesicant (causes blistering) and rubefacient (produces redness of the skin).
The sap can cause serious injury including poisoning, severe caustic burns, blindness, ulcers on the cornea, even anaphylactic shock.
Wearing eye protection and washing the exposed areas with soap and water is advised while handling such poisonous plants.
The plant may cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested. If you or someone you know ingests any part of a plant and experiences severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, or loss of consciousness, seek immediate medical attention.
What do you do if you get euphorbia sap in your eyes?
If euphorbia sap does get into the eye, wash the eye with water immediately.
Propagate firestick plant
Firestick plants can be easily propagated through stem cuttings.
Remember to wear gloves and goggles when taking the cuttings. Place the cutting in the open air for a week to form a callus(The healing tissue produced by plants to cover a wound resulting from a cut or other physical damage).
Put the cutting into the pot that has a succulent mix or cactus mix. The cutting gets roots easily and you will see the growth in 10 days.
Firestick Plant Lighting Requirements
In terms of lighting, the Firestick Plant demands bright, indirect light for optimal growth and coloration. When grown indoors, placing the plant near a south-facing window or utilizing artificial grow lights can ensure it receives the necessary light intensity.
Firestick Plant Watering Regimen
Despite its ability to withstand drought conditions, the Firestick Plant requires regular watering during the growing season, typically spring and summer.
Are Firestick plants poisonous to dogs?
Firestick plants are toxic to Dogs and Cats. It can be noted that this plant is poisonous to humans too.
If you suspect that your dog or cat has ingested any part of a Firestick plant or is showing any symptoms of poisoning, it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately. Treatment may include inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins in the digestive tract, and providing supportive care to manage symptoms.
It is always a good idea to keep potentially toxic plants out of the reach of pets and to supervise them when they are outside in areas where such plants are growing.
Firestick common names
English Finger euphorbia, Indian spurge tree, Milk bush, Naked lady, Pencil-tree, Rubber euphorbia.
Euphorbia tirucalli pests and diseases
There is a tendency to believe that E. tirucalli has no pests and diseases because of its poisonous latex. However, a few pests can do the damage. An infestation by Botrytis spp. causes the plant stem and roots to rot especially in warm and humid conditions.
Euphorbia tirucalli Uses
Euphorbia tirucalli possess hydrocarbon polymers that are used for manufacturing rubber substitutes.
It contains white milky latex in all its parts, including the roots. The latex contains about 28% solid matter whose composition is: 21 to 27% water-soluble substances, 59 to63% resin-soluble substances, and 12 to 14% rubber-like substances.
It is also known to be a remedy against many ailments. However, most of its medicinal features are mostly informal.
The genus Euphorbia has over 2000 species (all commonly referred to as spurges), about half of which are succulent.
The poinsettia and the Crown of thorns are two of the best-known Euphorbias. The genus is characterized by tiny petal-less flowers enclosed by bracts that are often brightly colored and very showy.
Some spurges, such as Euphorbia horrida and Euphorbia echinus, are leafless but have swollen spiny stems that resemble a cactus.
Others, including Euphorbia obesa, form small rounded and ridged domes that might be mistaken for sea urchins.
The crown of thorns, Euphorbia milii, has erect spiny stems with showy red bracts.
New crown of thorn hybrids, generally referred to as Euphorbia x lomi, have much larger, long-lasting bracts in a variety of colors.
All of these species are generally grown as container plants except in frost-free climates. But there also many succulent spurges that may be grown as landscape plants in temperate zones.
Euphorbia myrsinites have spirally arranged grey-green leaves and clusters of greenish-yellow flowers.
Gopher spurge, Euphorbia lathyris, which has leaves with a white midrib and small green flowers, is reputed to repel burrowing rodents in the garden.
The Mediterranean spurge, Euphorbia characias, grows to 3 feet or more, with erect woody stems, long linear leaves, and dense showy inflorescences of yellow flowers.
Many cultivars of this species, including a variegated form, are also available.