Euphorbia brachycera


Horned Spurge - Euphorbia brachycera
Railroad Canyon, Black Range, New Mexico
May 9, 2014

When I first saw the Euphorbia brachycera, Horned Spurge, I was immediately reminded of Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, which is a common (early blooming) plant of the Pacific Northwest.  Both have what appear to be circular leaves, through which flowers and stems grow.  In the case of the Horned Spurge this is somewhat deceiving because on closer inspection it is apparent that more than one leaf is involved.

Spurges ooze a milky latex type of material when injured or broken.  This material contains diterpenes which can cause very painful inflammation when they come in contact with mucous membranes.  As with most toxic substances many medical uses are being developed from the chemical bases of the latex.

Scientific synonyms for this species include E. lurida, E. montana, E. odontadenia, E. philora, E. robusta, Tithymalus brachycerus, T. luridus, T. mexicanus, T. montanus, and T. robustus.

The BONAP map to the right indicates the range of this species within the lower 48 of the United States.  Light green indicates that the species is native to, and common within, the county indicated.  Flora of North America indicates that the species is found in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Sonora - but as shown below, it is (apparently) also found in Durango.

The specimen shown below was collected by E. W. Nelson on September 9, 1898 along the road between San Julian and Perro Prielto, Durango.  Like many species in the southwestern United States, this one was first described by Engelmann in the U.S. - Mexican Boundary Survey report of 1859.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023