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What's Blooming in Pardise: Crown of Thorns

December 14, 2012
Anita Force Marshall , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Plant Subject: Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)

First impression: Christmas red, tiny bright blossoms cover a very well armed plant. Thorns aka barbs blanket every stem of this low growing shrub. Leaves are green and sparse. Somewhere under all these teethed stems we may find a beginning, but I'm not looking! No fragrance that I can detect, but pollinators are all around. A sticky situation might occur if you try to pick these blossoms; you can look, but don't touch this unique bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Crown of Thorns really describes this multi prickly plant. Euphorbias include a whopping 2000 plus species of tropical, arid loving, drought tolerant plants. Our star got its name long ago as the spiny crown that was placed on the head of Christ during crucifixion. If you can learn to admire the thorns, Crown of Thorns will be very popular in your garden because it's always blooming. Each blossom consists of 2 petals in a heart shape surrounding a tiny weenie floret. Each bloom usually four is connected to a skinny stalk. Some newer varieties have flowers blooming on top of flowers- way cool. Stalks are attached to the main flower stem, which makes for oodles of ever blooming flowers. The slender stalks create dancing flowers when the wind blows. Bees love the blooms and can be seen all day feeding on the sweet nectar. The trunk of our star is grey and gnarly and is upright shaped like a hedge cactus. Thorns, thorns and more thorns cover every inch of the trunk. Brown and green Anoles, small mammals, and snakes find shelter under and around protected by the plant's spiny stems. In the last decades Crown of Thorns varieties have evolved. Yellow, white, pinks colors which are great for options. Larger sized flowers and leaves can be found. Crown of thorns is a slow growing euphorbia. In SW Florida our star may reach 2-3 feet in height and can sprawl to just as wide. Pruning can be done carefully, but really not necessary. Propagation is usually by division. Always wear thick leather gloves and long sleeved shirt. Wrapping a long rolled-up section of newsprint or fabric around a pad provides a convenient handle that avoids the long spines and short glochids. Dig up or cut stems can then be cut off larger plants with hand clippers. The cut stems wound should dry for about 3 days. I place mine in shady area under bushes etc. Plant the wounded stem with the wound in the ground. The wound will establish the new Crown of Thorns with roots. Whaa-laAnother fabulous addition, which will reward you for many years with the yen and yang of flowers and thorns.

Article Photos

Pros: Unique bloomer - Does well in sandy soil - Likes full sun Bee Magnet - Easy to maintain Salt tolerance Name and thorny look makes a great conversation piece - Is great for a ground cover Great barrier for unwanted neighbors - Cold tolerant Great habitat plant - Easy care Non invasive.

Cons: Be careful with barbs Slow grower Non native who doesn't love Bees!

Conclusion: Learn to love our barbs! They can give us inspiration as true survivors. How do you show your love to our Crown of thornsvery carefully!

Don't wanna miss this bloomer!

 
 

 

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