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Origin and Habitat: Western Cape (Ladismith to Barrydale), South Africa. Euphorbia fortuita is a localized species (extent of occurrence less than 500 km²), recorded from fewer than five locations.
Type locality: South Africa, Cape, 27 miles from Ladismith towards Barrydale.
Altitude range. 0-500 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology: Arid Succulent Karoo. Euphorbia fortuita grows on sun-baked quartz outcrops. This species is threatened by harvesting for the succulent trade. There is also a potential threat of loss of habitat and mature individuals to expansion of roadside quarries. The population trend is decreasing.
- Euphorbia fortuita A.C.White, R.A.Dyer & B.Sloane
Description: Euphorbia fortuita is a perennial succulent medusoid euphorbia, that has a tuberous main root merging into the main caudex, and stiff cylindrical branches usually about 10 cm long, but occasionally one will be twice as long. It is hermaphroditic (bisexual with male and female form of flowers on the same plant.
Derivation of specific name: The specific name comes from the Latin epithet 'fortuita' meaning "accidental", "discovered by chance".
Main stem (caudex): The central stem merges into the fleshy, tuberous root forming an obconical, tuberous body (often called a caudex) with branches radiating from it. If you look down into a large specimen you'll see what looks like a sun flower; it's another example of a Fibonacci spiral.
Branches: Ascending or spreading from the apex of the main stem, 3-12 cm long, 4-7 mm. thick, cylindrical, tuberculate, glabrous.
Leaves: About 1.5 mm long, soon deciduous.
Flowers (cyathia): Bisexual, solitary, 4.5-5 mm in diameter, short pedunculate and densely filled with white hairs in the centre. Peduncle 1-2 mm long, persistent or not-persistent. Cyathial glands about 2 mm broad, dark purple entire-edged or with up to 7 recurved appendages. Pedicels of the male florets densely pubescent. Bacteoles 3-5 uniformly pubescent in their upper half. Ovary densely pubescent above.
Similar species: Euphorbia fortuita is very similar and was included under Euphorbia esculenta in Bruyns et al. (2006). However, there are significant differences in cyathia shape and hairiness that warrant their recognition as distinct species. The plants also resemble Euphorbia colliculina from the Oudsthoorn area, but the cyathia are very pubescent and the involucre glands purple instead of greenish-yellow. The peduncles are not persistent, while those of E colliculina are occasionally persistent. Moreover E. fortuita differs from Euphorbia inermis by the fact that the primary shoot is not set off clearly from the fleshy main root but is a continuation of it, the branches are stronger, hairiness of involucre and gland teeth different.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Werner Rauh “The Wonderful World of Succulents: Cultivation and Description of Selected Succulent Plants Other Than Cacti” Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
2) Schutte-Vlok, A.L., Bayer, B.M. & Raimondo, D. 2011. Euphorbia fortuita A.C.White, R.A.Dyer & B.Sloane. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/02/20
3) White, A., Dyer, R.A. and Sloane, B.L. “The succulent Euphorbieae (Southern Africa)” Volume I. Abbey Garden Press, Pasadena.1941
4) San Gabriel Valley Cactus and Succulent Society “Succulent of the Month August 2003 - Medusoid Euphorbia” Tom Glavich July 2003 Retrieved on 20 Feb. 2016. from <http://www.sgvcss.com/communique/sotm_2003_08.pdf>
5) Bruyns P.V., Mapaya R.J. & Hedderson T. “A new sub-generic classification for Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae) in southern Africa based on ITS and psbA-trnH sequence data.” Taxon 55: 397–420. 2006
6) Bruyns P.V. “Nomenclature and typification of southern African species of Euphorbia” Bothalia 42,2: 217–245 2012
Cultivation and Propagation: Euphorbia fortuita is an easy species to grow that is suited for any well drained soil in full sun. It is cultivated as an ornamental, and is a particular favourite of succulent plant enthusiasts. Even if the branches in cultivated specimens may be 2-3 times as long as those found on South African specimens this species maintains its habit more compact than in related species.
Growing rate: It is a relatively slow growing and long lived plant and once established, it will be content in its position and with its soil for years.
Soil and pots: It likes deep pot with generous drain holes to accommodate its tap root, needs a very airy potting medium very permeable to water which mainly consists of non organic material such us clay, pumice, lava grit, expanded slate and only a little peat or leaf-mould. Re-pot every two years.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet in summer. Use preferably a cacti and succulents fertilizer with high potassium content including all micro nutrients and trace elements or slow release fertilizer.
Exposure: 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.
Watering: Water regularly during the active growing season. No water should ever be allowed to stand around the roots. Keep almost completely dry in winter. However this spurge will tolerate dryness and can even thrives in poor, dry soils, but do better when grown in nutrient-rich soils with regular watering.
Aerosol salt tolerance: It is salt tolerant.
Hardiness: Some cold tolerance. This spurge has tolerated temperatures down to –6ºC and even a little snow. However it can be difficult to get it to look its best without a good amount of heat and sun (USDA Zones 8-11)
Rot: Rot it is only a minor problem with Euphorbias if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Known hazards: As with all other Euphorbias when a plant get damaged it exudes a thick white milky sap known as latex. This latex is poisonous, and may irritate skin. Pay extreme attention not to get any in your eyes or mouth. Cultivated plants must be handled carefully.
Propagation: The plant can be reproduced by seeds or cuttings If you take a cutting from this plant, you will get a strange bunch of sideways 'fingers' that will not come true to the shape of the parent. In this case, wait for seed. If you remove an offset, remember to let it dry for some days, letting the wound heal (cuttings planted too soon easily rot before they can grow roots). Lay it on the soil and insert the stem end partially into the substrate. Try to keep the cutting somewhat upright so that the roots are able to grow downward. It is better to wash the cut to remove the latex.
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