Pencil Tree, etc.
Euphorbia ‘Leland City Hall’
Euphorbia tirucalli L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this strange species of Euphorbia. Both the genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 1.980 accepted species in the Euphorbia genus (as of 11-27-18 when this page was updated. Last time I checked there were 2,004). Version 1.1 of The Plant List named 2,046 species in 2013 (plus an additional 144 accepted infraspecific names), 3,522 synonyms of species rank (plus 1,592 infraspecific synonyms), and 94 unresolved names. The Plant List is now unmaintained but it is still a great source of information. You can compare it with current statistics to see progress. World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) lists 5,401 names but most are synonyms. I am not going to go down the list and count all the accepted names. WCSP is also a Kew venture.
When I was living at the mansion in Leland, Mississippi, there was this very big, or at least tall, strange looking plant growing in the city hall. I first saw it in December 2008 when I moved there and at the time I didn’t know what it was. My fingers were just itching to break off a piece but I resisted for a couple of years. As I started collecting more plants, my craving to have a cutting finally got the best of me. I am not sure exactly when I broke down and gave in, maybe in 2010. Whenever it was, the cutting I brought home was pretty small. Seriously, the plant in the city hall was at least 4 feet tall and usually leafless. My cutting started growing and most of the time was just simply weird. I did know the name of it at the time, so I just called it Euphorbia ‘Leland City Hall’ after where I took the cutting. Many of my plants are named after where I got them or who gave them to me.
I am almost positive I took photos of this plant before 7-2-12. When I have time I will have to go through the old Mississippi photos to see if I can find earlier photos.
I kept most of the potted plants outside in the backyard then took them into the sunrooms, den, kitchen, or butler’s pantry during the cooler months.
<<<<NOW IN MISSOURI>>>>
I took this plant with me after I sold the mansion and moved back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013. It didn’t mind spending the rest of the winter in the basement. In the spring, I moved it outside along with my other plants and it continued to grow.
Euphorbia tirucalli has a pretty wide range in Africa where it grows as trees, shrubs, etc. As with all Euphorbia species (I think), it produces a chalky white latex which is supposed to be poisonous and can cause skin irritations. According to the Wikipedia, in dry areas it has actually been used as feed for cattle. The latex can also be converted to the equivalent of gasoline and was estimated that an acre can produce between 10-50 barrels of oil.
It was at one point used as an anti-cancer treatment but research showed that it suppresses the immune system, promotes tumor growth, and leads to the development of other types of cancer. It also says that eye contact can cause blindness for several days… GEEZ!
Even though Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Leland City Hall’ may look a little strange, it was very interesting to say the least.
Once temps started dropping, I had to move the succulents back inside for the winter. Soon after the above photo was taken, I moved around 40 plants to my bedroom for the winter.
Unfortunately, I gave up most of my plants in the late summer of 2014 for a reason that didn’t work out. These old photos bring back a lot of pleasant memories and a few regrets. Giving up plants that have sentimental value can never be replaced.
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