Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) is a tough-as-nails, mean SOB of a succulent from Madagascar that is commonly grown as a houseplant here in North America. Those thorns will get you and make you curse like a sailor.
I love it!
I spotted this one in Barbados growing along the front fence in front of a small home. The plant was the size of a small bush and bursting with tiny bright red blooms. Oh to have a crown of thorns flanking my front garden. That should keep the Friday night bar hoppers looking for an outdoor urinal out of the garden.
I’ve come to associate the plant with the Arcade Fire song, Crown of Love.
“In my heart, there’s flowers growing.”
And inversely, these are the flowers I always imagine growing in the singer’s heart.
Can you believe the size of this thing? Me neither. I have not seen a euphorbia of this size before or since.
This photo was taken at the Andromeda Botanic Gardens in Bathsheba, Barbados.
Euphorbia make up a very large and diverse genus of plants, but because of the size I believe this plant may be one of the tree euphorbia (e. abyssinica, etc) that we North Americans commonly grow as houseplants. We have two in our bedroom; ailing plants that Davin bought from a corner store years ago, repotted, and nursed back to health. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, they will never grow to be more than a tiny fraction of the size of this tree.
One of the many things I brought back from this trip (or the Barbados portion of it anyways) was a new respect and appreciation for euphorbias. Now to find myself a nice Euphorbia lactea for my collection.
Here’s an encore minus the cheesy tourist.
Here’s a plant I would love to grow at home. It’s fairly common here in Barbados. I have seen it in the ground and in white pots. I never thought I’d say this, but it really works in a white pot.
While in the Cuban countryside, we came upon a number of very old cemeteries that always sat right next to the ocean. I was told that one cemetery dated back to 1919. How they managed to survive the hurricanes when so many homes with much more distance from the ocean haven’t is beyond me.
This particular type of euphorbia seemed to skirt the edges of all but one of them. That one was fenced by a much tougher euphorbia. This plant looks very similar to Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and I’ve been struggling to decide if it is or isn’t since our trip. Here’s a closer shot.
My argument FOR identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- It gets very scraggly and vine-like when growing in tropical countries. Nothing like the potted plants North Americans display and then subsequently toss every holiday season.
- Let’s compare. Here’s a picture I took in Mexico years ago. This particular plant was growing in the tended garden of someone’s backyard. Plants were being watered with hoses through the duration of our stay. So the difference here is a tended plant versus a plant that is left to fend for itself.
- It was the dry season, which would account for extra straggliness.
- It was growing in sand literally just off the beach. The beach was right on the other side of the cemetery. There were some trees providing a bit of shade but many plants were fully exposed. Let me tell you, it was HOT and the sun was punishing. That’s a lot for a poinsettia to take. They prefer a bit of shade coverage.
- Look at the leaves and the little red bracts. They look right, albeit on the small side. But numbers 2, 3, and 4 could account for that.
My argument AGAINST identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- I find it shocking to believe that poinsettia could survive that degree of extreme heat, sun and drought. See #4 (above).
- There are gazillions of euphorbias in the world. I’ll admit my experience of them barely begins to cover the myriad of species out there. There is a very good chance that there is a plant very similar to poinsettia.
- I am not an authority on poinsettias. I can barely stand the plant. Although I will say that I much prefer it growing wild and straggly. The cultivated potted varieties do little for me.
What do you think? Yay or nay?
As an aside, here’s another shot of the same cemetery. It was pretty incredible. Sigh. Let’s all get on a plane right now and go to Cuba together. I hear it’s warm there.