Top

Scientific Name
Synonyms
Common Names
Family
Origin
Naturalised Distribution
Cultivation
Habitat
Distinguishing Features
Habit
Stems and Leaves
Flowers and Fruit
Reproduction and Dispersal
Impacts
Other Impacts
Similar Species
Legislation
Sources
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Click on images to enlarge


dense infestation near a beach (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


dense infestation along a waterway (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


habit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


habit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


fiddle-shaped upper leaves (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


'flower' clusters and floral leaves with brightly coloured bases (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


close-up of young 'flowers' (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


close-up of immature fruit developing from the large three-lobed ovaries (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


close-up of immature and mature and fruit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


seedlings and young plants (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


comparison of the upper leaves of milkweed (Euphorbia heterophylla), on the left, and painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora), on the right (Photo: Sheldon Navie)


comparison of the floral leaves and 'flower' clusters of milkweed (Euphorbia heterophylla), on the left, and painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora), on the right (Photo: Sheldon Navie)

Painted spurge
Euphorbia cyathophora

Scientific Name

Euphorbia cyathophora Murr.

Synonyms

Euphorbia heterophylla L. (misapplied)
Euphorbia heterophylla L. var. cyathophora (Murr.) Griseb.

Common Names

catalina, dwarf poinsettia, fire on the mountain, fire-on-the-mountain, Mexican fire plant, painted leaf, painted poinsettia, painted spurge, painted-leaf, painted-leaf spurge, poinsettia, summer poinsettia, wild poinsettia

Family

Euphorbiaceae

Origin

Native to tropical North America (i.e. the USA and eastern Mexico) and possibly also Central America (i.e. Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama), the Caribbean and South America (i.e. Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile).

Naturalised Distribution

This species has a widespread, but scattered, distribution throughout much of Australia. It is most common in the coastal districts of Queensland and northern New South Wales, scattered in the Northern Territory and in the northern and western parts of Western Australia, and present in the coastal districts of central New South Wales. Also naturalised on several offshore islands (i.e. Lord Howe Island, Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, the Cocos Islands and the Coral Sea Islands) and sparingly naturalised on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

Naturalised in many other parts of the world, including on numerous Pacific islands (e.g. Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau and Wake Island).

Cultivation

Painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora) is widely cultivated, particularly in the warmer parts of Australia, for its attractive reddish-coloured floral leaves.

Habitat

This species is a weed of disturbed sites, waste areas, roadsides, creek banks (i.e. riparian areas) and plantation crops (e.g. sugar cane and pineapples) in tropical, sub-tropical and warmer temperate environments. However, it is most abundant as a weed of coastal environs and offshore islands.

Distinguishing Features

Habit

A short-lived (i.e. annual) herbaceous plant with an upright (i.e. erect) habit. It usually only grows to approximately 70-90 cm in height.

Stems and Leaves

The upright (i.e. erect) stems are 3-5 mm thick and their side-branches, when present, are often produced in pairs. Stems and branches are green in colour and mostly hairless (i.e. glabrous). The stems and leaves also exude a caustic milky sap (i.e. latex) when broken or damaged.

The leaves are oppositely arranged towards the base of the plant, alternately arranged along most of the stem, and are then oppositely arranged again on the uppermost parts of the stems and branches (i.e. where the flowers are produced). These leaves (2-10 cm long and 1-4 cm wide) are borne on stalks (i.e. petioles) 4-12 mm long and the shape of the leaf blade is quite variable. It ranges from fiddle-shaped (i.e. pandurate) or lobed through to oval (i.e. elliptic) or egg-shaped in outline (i.e. obovate). The upper surface of these leaves is hairless (i.e. glabrous) while the under surface usually has a few close-lying (i.e. appressed) hairs. The leaves at the tips of the branches (i.e. those just below the flowers) have reddish-pink coloured bases and can appear to be large flower petals at a distance.

Flowers and Fruit

The inconspicuous 'flowers' (i.e. cyathia) are actually tiny cup-like structures (i.e. involucres) each containing several tiny male flowers and one female flower. The male flowers are reduced to stamens and the female flower consists of a very large stalked ovary topped with a stigma. These 'flowers' (i.e. cyathia) are clustered at the tips of the branches and are yellowish-green in colour. Each 'flower' (i.e. cyathium) is borne on a separate stalk (i.e. peduncle) and the tiny cup-like structures (i.e. involucres) are about 2-2.5 mm long. They usually also have one or two kidney-shaped yellowish structures that contain nectar (i.e. floral nectaries).

The fruit is a three-lobed capsule (3-4 mm long and 5-6 mm wide) with three inner compartments, each containing a single seed. Seeds are egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid) and dark brown in colour (2-3 mm long and about 1.5 mm wide).

Reproduction and Dispersal

Painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora) reproduces by seed. The capsules open explosively when mature, expelling the seeds short distances. They may also be spread by water movement and is dumped garden waste.

Impacts

Painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora) is regarded as an environmental weed in Queensland and New South Wales. It is ranked among the top 200 environmental weeds in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales, and appears on numerous local environmental weed lists in these regions.

This species prefers sandy soils, particularly in disturbed sites. It is of most concern as a weed of hind-dune areas on beaches and is also relatively common in coastal and sub-coastal riparian zones. In Queensland painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora) is most prevalent in the south-eastern parts of the state, but is also a weed of beaches and offshore islands in the north (e.g. in Townsville City, in Sarina Shire, on Heron Island and on Green Island).

In New South Wales painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora) is mainly a problem in coastal sandy sites north of Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast. In Western Australia it is an occasional weed in the northern parts of the state (e.g. at Derby and Broome), has been recorded in suburban Perth, and is also present on offshore islands (i.e. on Koolan Island).

Other Impacts

This species is poisonous to humans. Its stems contain a milky sap (i.e. latex) that is highly irritating when it comes into contact with the skin or when it is accidentally rubbed into the eyes.

Similar Species

Painted spurge (Euphorbia cyathophora) is very similar to milkweed (Euphorbia heterophylla ) and poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). These three species can be distinguished by the following differences:

Legislation

Not declared or considered noxious by any state government authorities.

Sources

Anonymous (1989). Weeds in Australian Cane Fields. BSES Bulletin, No. 28, October 1989. Bureau of Sugar Experimentation Stations, Indooroopilly, Queensland.

Anonymous (2002). A Global Compendium of Weeds. http://www.hear.org/gcw. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project and Department of Agriculture - Western Australia.

Anonymous (2002). Australia's Virtual Herbarium. http://www.anbg.gov.au/avh. Australian National Botanic Gardens, Environment Australia, Canberra, ACT.

Anonymous (2005). Regional Weed Management Plan. http://www.northcoastweeds.org.au/site-files/docs/coastal-weeds-management-plan.pdf. NSW North Coast Weeds Advisory Committee, Bellingen, NSW.

Anonymous (2006). Euphorbia cyathophora Murr., Euphorbiaceae. Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER): plant threats to pacific ecosystems. http://www.hear.org/pier/species/euphorbia_cyathophora.htm. Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, Hawaii, USA.

Anonymous (2006). Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/index.pl. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, National Genetic Resources Program, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Beltsville, Maryland, USA.

Barker, B., Barker, R., Jessop, J. and Vonow, H. (2005). Census of South Australian Vascular Plants. Fifth Edition. The Botanic Gardens of Adelaide and State Herbarium, Government of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia.

Batianoff, G.N. and Butler, D.W. (2002). Assessment of invasive naturalized plants in south-east Queensland. Plant Protection Quarterly 17: 27-34.

Bostock, P.D. and Holland, A.E. (2007). Census of the Queensland Flora 2007. Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Brisbane, Queensland.

Cowie, I. and Kerrigan, R. (2007). Introduced Flora of the Northern Territory. http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/plants/pdf/intro_flora_checklist.pdf. Department of Natural Resources, Environment and The Arts, Northern Territory.

DuPuy, D.J. and Telford, I.R.H. (1993). Euphorbiaceae. In: Flora of Australia, Volume 50, Oceanic Islands 2 (eds. A.S. George, A.E. Orchard and H.J. Hewson). Australian Government Printing Service (AGPS), Canberra, ACT.

Green, P. (1994). Flora of Australia, Volume 49, Oceania Islands 1. Australian Biological Resources Study and CSIRO Publishing, Canberra, ACT.

James, T.A. and Harden, G.J. (2007). Euphorbia cyathophora Murray. New South Wales Flora Online. PlantNET - The Plant Information Network System of Botanic Gardens Trust. http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, New South Wales.

Keighery, G. and Longman, V. (2004). The naturalized vascular plants of Western Australia. 1: checklist, environmental weeds and distribution in IBRA regions. Plant Protection Quarterly 19: 12-32.

Kerrigan, R.A. and Albrecht, D.E. (2007). Checklist of NT Vascular Plant Species. http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/plants/pdf/family_checklist.pdf. Department of Natural Resources, Environment and The Arts, Northern Territory.

Kleinschmidt, H.E., Holland, A. and Simpson, P. (1996). Suburban Weeds. 3rd Edition. Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Navie, S.C. (2004). Crop Weeds of Australia. CD-ROM. The University of Queensland, St. Lucia., Brisbane, Queensland.

Navie, S.C., Markwell, B., Playford, J. and Adkins, S.W. (2002). Suburban and Environmental Weeds: an interactive identification and information system. CD-ROM. The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (2001). Noxious Weeds of Australia. Second Edition. Inkata Press, Melbourne, Victoria.

Spooner, A., Carpenter, J., Smith, G. and Spence, K. (2007). *Euphorbia cyathophora Murray. FloraBase: The Western Australian Flora. http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au. Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), Perth, Western Australia.

Stanley, T.E. and Ross, E.M. (1983). Flora of South-eastern Queensland. Volume 1. Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Wilson, B.J., Hawton, D. and Duff, A.A. (1995). Crop Weeds of Northern Australia: identification at seedling and mature stages. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.