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Accepted Scientific Name: Euphorbia punicea Sw.
Prodr. [O. P. Swartz] 76. 1788 [20 Jun-29 Jul 1788] Sw.
Habit at KiHana Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii (USA). February 15, 2011.
Origin and Habitat: The natural habitat of Euphorbia punicea is in Jamaica. It can also be found on the Bahamas, Cuba and the Virgin Island – most likely as an introduced species. It has also been introduced in the southern USA and elsewhere in the tropics.
Habitat and ecology: It grows commonly in the mountains in semi-arid areas on rocky almost pure limestone soils in full sun.
- Euphorbia punicea Sw.
Euphorbia punicea Sw.
Prodr. [O. P. Swartz] 76. 1788 [20 Jun-29 Jul 1788]
- Euphorbia punicea Sw.
- Adenorima punicea (Sw.) Raf.
- Euphorbiodendron puniceum (Sw.) Millsp.
- Poinsettia punicea (Sw.) Klotzsch & Garcke
- Tithymalus puniceus (Sw.) Haw.
- Euphorbia troyana Urb.
- Euphorbiodendron troyanum (Urb.) Millsp.
ENGLISH: Jamaican poinsettia, Flame of Jamaica, Vegetable-leather, Flame-of-Jamaica, Scarlet-flowered spurge, Crimson Euphorbia, West Indian spurge
FRENCH (Français): Euphorbe cramoise
SPANISH (Español): Poinsetia de Jamaica, Flor de pascua del caribe
Description: Jamaican poinsettia (Euphorbia punicea) is a remarkably fine species of euphorbia (spurge) relative of the common Christmas Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). The small insignificant golden yellow flowers are surrounded by a very showy crown of flashy-red petal-like bracts, looking like larger flowers from a distance. Unlike the poinsettia this large shrub or small tree may flowers year round. This is a handsome growing plant independently of the beauty of its flowers. The foliage is of a peculiar light green and is thickly set on magnificent light coloured stems. The name of the species is the Latin adjective “puniceus, a, um” = purplish, with obvious reference. This plant has been cultivated for centuries but is comparatively unknown. It is however worthy of general cultivation.
Habit: It grows as an unarmed, fleshy-stemmed, bush or tree 3-5 meters tall, or sometimes even 10 metres high. A lone bole or multiple trunks may develop, branching out into a rather rounded but sparse silhouette.
Stems: Rubbery, semi-succulent, greenish to very pale brown or cream coloured with prominent traces of the fallen leaves lining the woody lower branches and trunk. Only at twig tips do the oblong green leaves develop. Break a twig or leaf and a milky latex sap bleeds out.
Leaves: Clustered at stems apexes, oblong, coriaceous, dark green. Normally evergreen, seasonal drought and cool temperatures can cause foliage to temporarily drop away.
Inflorescence: Terminal. The flowers and bracts develop in loose clusters.
Flowers: Typical cyathia of the Euphorbiaceae, small, formed by a greenish ovary and a campanulate involucre surrounded by yellow nectariferous glands, which have at the base two bracts (modified leaves) of a bright red or salmon-orange colour, in clear contrast to the colour of the leaves. The bracts have the function of attracting the attention of the pollinator, like the petals of a single flower. Seen that the receptivity of the stigma does not match with the release of the pollen very unlikely a single plant can fructify.
Blooming season: It is a short-day species, the induction of flowering is given by the reduction of the light hours in autumn. But in the tropics it blooms anytime the weather is amply warm.
Fruits (capsules): Ovoid containing seeds, which, when ripe, are expelled and thrown at a great distance.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Forest & Kim Starr “Euphorbia punicea (Jamaican poinsettia)”. Plants of Hawaii. <http://www.starrenvironmental.com>. Web. 27 Sep. 2014.
2) Wikipedia contributors. "Euphorbia punicea." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Sep. 2014.
3) M.M. Grandtner “Elsevier's Dictionary of Trees: Volume 1: North America” Volume 1 Elsevier, 08/Apr/2005
4) George W. Johnson, Esq. “The Cottage Gardener“ 1852
5) Anonymus “Euphorbia punicea. Scarlet-flowered spurge.” Curtis’s Botanical Magazine Vol. 45 1818
6) Anonymus. “Euphorbia punicea.” The Gardeners’ Chronicle, April 23 1881
7) Fawcett, W., Rendle A. W., “Flora of Jamaica.” London 1920
8) Koutnik, D. L. “Making sense of succulent spurges” The Euphorbia Journal Vol. 10: 65 1997
9) Mostul B. L., Chazaro Bsanez, M. “Two geophytic Euphorbias from Western Mexico.” Cactus & Succulent Journal (U.S.) Vol. 68:153-155 1996
10) Van Veldhuisen, R. “Euphorbia punicea.” Succulenta 77(1): 16-18.1998
11) Rikus van Veldhuisen “Some notes on Euphorbia punicea SWARTZ and related species” Euohorbia World Vol. 1 N. 3 – January 2006
12) H. Han, J. A. Brito and D. W. Dickson “First Report of Meloidogyne enterolobii Infecting Euphorbia punicea in Florida” Plant Disease November 2012, Volume 96, Number 11Pages 1,706.2 - 1,706.2
13) Giuseppe Mazza “Euphorbia punicea” Foto Mazza http://www. photomazza.com> Web. 1 Oct. 2014.
Cultivation and Propagation: The Jamaican poinsettia (Euphorbia punicea) is an easy species to grow that is suited for any well drained soil in full sun. Suitable for tropical and subtropical climates, its cultivation can be tried, in the mildest zones with warm temperate climate, where the temperatures close to the 0 °C are a short-lasting exception.. It has a high drought tolerance and needs little maintenance. But young plant are happy growing indoors. Very ornamental species, but sill rather rare in cultivation, recalls, in small, the well known and diffused Euphorbia pulcherrima.
Growing rate: Very slow growing but worth the wait, your Euphorbia punicea will become a specimen shrub much admired by all who see your plant. It is a long lived plant and once established, it will be content in its position and with its soil for years. Only downside is from strong winds, best to plant in such a location where winds are not a big issue. Extremely old, healthy plants may mature upward of 8 m, but it's not common.
Soils: In Jamaica, this small tree grows in limestone soils with little rainfall, but in cultivation it grows well in any soil that is fast-draining. In pots give the plant an airy growing medium which mainly consists of non organic material such us clay, pumice, lava grit, and only a little peat or leaf-mould simply insure perfect drainage.
Repotting: It like quite small pots, repott in very later winter, early spring.
Watering: It has a high drought tolerance. Keep the soil evenly moist during the active growing season from March to September, especially during the warmth of spring to fall. Adequate irrigations hasten growth and keeps this succulent looking most attractive and lush. No water should ever be allowed to stand around the roots. Keep almost completely dry in winter.
Light: Full sun. It can tolerate moderate shade, and a plant that has been growing in shade should be slowly hardened off before placing it in full sun as the plant will be severely scorched if moved too suddenly from shade into sun. Might be a candidate for indoor culture due to very low water needs being a big advantage, but providing sufficient sun/light/hours likely would be the issue
Hardiness: Considered frost tender like all Caribbean Euphorbias. It likes warmth with lowest winter minimum temperatures preferably never to drop under the 14 °C. However plants kept perfectly dry can can survive low temperatures, approx. 0° C, but for safe cultivation it is best to avoid freezing temperatures. Never let the roots chill.
Climate Zone: USDA zones 10B-11, but may be OK in parts of zone 9 shedding leaves in winter and coming back with new growth in spring.
Salt Tolerance: It is only slightly tolerant of salt spray.
Maintenance: With proper prunings it can be grown as tree as well as low and well ramified shrub, with more tip growth and therefore more flowers. A very nice presentation.
Uses: Use Jamaican poinsettia as a small accent shrub around a foundation or incorporated into mixed border or irrigated rock garden in frost-free climates. It does attract butterflies!
It can also be kept as an indoor ornamental plant in a warm, abundantly sunny room.
Pest and diseases: They are susceptible to fungal diseases. Wet soil causes root and stem rot, especially during winter months. Pests include whitefly, scale insects, and mealybugs. Often the scale insects and mealybugs are brought in and protected by ants. Spider mites can also can damage to leaves. In Florida root systems of this species have been heavily galled by root-knot nematodes causing stunted growth, yellowing leaves and root rotting.
Propagation: It is easy to propagate from seed or vegetatively in late spring to summer, just take a cutting of the plant let it dry for 1 or 2 weeks and stuff it in the ground (preferably dry, loose, extremely well draining soil). Cuttings will take root in a minimum temperature of 20° C (but better in hot weather). Sow the seed in spring on the soil surface. Transplant the seedlings as soon as they can be handled into very small pots and treat them afterwards exactly similar to the cuttings.
Warning: All Euphorbias contain a white sap that can be irritating to eyes and mucous membranes. If contact is made with this white sap, take care to not touch face or eyes before washing hands with soap and water.
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