Flowers are certainly not the first thing you may think of when you walk into our Madagascar Spiny Desert Biome. The first and most striking things you see are all the spines, it is right in the name, and they are hard to miss! However, if you look a little closer you may see something else hiding, smaller, more tucked away, but quite pretty if you can find them: flowers! Today, we are mostly going to talk about Euphorbias, also known as spurges. These plants are unique in the plant world in that they have cyathium, which are flower-like structures that contain the actual flowers, both male and female, as well as a set of cup-like fused bracts. These cyathium are small, to help the plant conserve what little water and resources it has. Most of the cyathia you’ll see are smaller than a pea! 

Above is Euphorbia decaryi var. cap-saintemariensis, a Madagascar native with thick frilly leaves and an interesting inflorescence. The tan flower-like structure and everything it contains is the cyathium. The yellow parts that are sticking out are the reduced male and female flowers.

Here is Euphorbia viguieri with its brilliant red cyathium.
This is Euphorbia milii, more commonly known as crown of thorns.
Here is Euphorbia ‘Zig Zag’, a cacti-like plant with some beautiful variegation, serious thorns and cute little button like cyathium.
One of my favorite Euphorbs I’ve seen in bloom, Euphorbia unispina. Look at those colors!
Euphorbia ankarensis boasts a bit bigger cyathium. It reminds me of a bunch of bells ready to be rung.

Euphorbia ankarensis boasts a bit bigger cyathium. It reminds me of a bunch of bells ready to be rung.

Look how tiny the flowers on this Euphorbia fiherenensis are!
I love the little dome of cyathium atop this Euphorbia didieriodes.
Euphorbia aeruginosa. Again, look at those colors! I think the reddish spines add to the overall beauty of this plant.

As a bonus, because I can’t resist sharing, below are a few other, non-Euphorbia things to keep any eye out for that are currently flowering.

This Pachypodium, part of another family of plants that we have a lot of examples of in our Madagascar Biome.
Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate Soldier’
Crassula ‘Morgan’s Pink’
Adenia firingalavensis

Come visit us, slow down, and look closely for all the things our amazing gardens have to offer!

Bernadette Gallagher

Bernadette Gallagher

B.S. Wildlife Biology, ISA Certified Arborist, Gardner

Gardener Bernadette Gallagher is a newer member of our team, but her training and versatility mean that she’s already been able to express her talents in all our gardens and biomes. Before landing with us Bernadette has been an arborist with Forest City Tree, a USDA tree-climber for the Asian longhorn beetle project, a VISTA community garden project manager, and a Nature Conservancy preserve steward. She is an ISA certified arborist and carries a wildlife biology degree from OU. Bernadette’s favorite CBG assignment so-far? Climbing the dawn redwood in the Japanese Garden—with her saw in tow!

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