One of the largest flowering-plant genera (Euphorbia), with more than 2,420 species. It takes its common name from a group of annual herbs used as purgatives, or spurges. Many spurges are important as ornamentals or as sources of drugs; many others are weeds. One of the best-known is the poinsettia. Euphorbia is part of the family Euphorbiaceae, which contains about 7,500 species of flowering annual and perennial herbs and woody shrubs or trees in 275 genera; most are found in temperate and tropical regions. Flowers usually lack petals; those of Euphorbia are borne in cup-shaped clusters. The fruit is a capsule. Leaves are usually simple. The stems of many species contain a milky latex. In addition to Euphorbia, economically important family members include the castor-oil plant, croton, cassava, and rubber tree.
Spurge (Euphorbia venata)—Valerie Finnis
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on spurge, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up spurge? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.