Euphorbia characias

Euphorbia characias L. (Medit.) – A very rare, locally naturalized escape from cultivation. Known since at least ca. 1995 from a ruderalized vacant lot in coastal dunes in Oostduinkerke (Kluislaan) where it is very well established and spreading. Possibly neglected or overlooked elsewhere, especially near habitations on the coast. Occasionally seen on inland locations as well, for instance on an old canal wall (brick quay of Franse Vaart) in the city of Gent in 2007, but then usually ephemeral. In the past years also recorded, for instance, in Avelgem, Balen and Loppem (see

Euphorbia characias is increasingly grown for ornament and easily self-seeds (it is often seen as an escape in nurseries as well). A future expansion in suitable habitats (dry, sun-exposed places with favourable climatic circumstances, mainly in coastal areas or in urban habitats) is not impossible.

Two subspecies are often distinguished (see Carter & Cullen 1997, Stace 2010): subsp. characias and subsp. wulfenii (Hoppe ex W.D.J. Koch) Radcl.-Sm. Both are cultivated as ornamentals. Their taxonomic value seems rather weak (Clement & Foster 1994). In some Belgian specimens seen the colouration and form of the cyathial glands seem to vary within a single population.


Selected literature:

Carter S. & Cullen J. (1997) Euphorbia. In: Cullen J. & al. (eds.), The European Garden Flora, vol. 5. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 81-101.

Clement E.J. & Foster M.C. (1994) Alien plants of the British Isles. BSBI, London: XVIII + 590 p.

Stace C. (2010) New flora of the British Isles, 3th ed.: XXXII + 1232 p. Cambridge University Press.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith