name = Spurge family

image_width = 250px
image_caption = Candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccana)
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Malpighiales
familia = Euphorbiaceae
familia_authority = Juss.
subdivision_ranks = Subfamilies
subdivision =
*EuphorbioideaeFor a detailed taxonomy to the genus level, see
Taxonomy of the Euphorbiaceae.

The Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) is a large family of flowering plants with 300 genera and around 7,500 species. Most are herbs, but some, especially in the tropics, are also shrubs or trees. Some are succulent and resemble cacti.

This family occurs mainly in the tropics, with the majority of the species in the Indo-Malayan region and tropical America a good second. There is a large variety in tropical Africa, but it is not as abundant or varied as in these two other tropical regions. However, "Euphorbia" also has many species in non-tropical areas such as the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, South Africa and southern USA.

The leaves are alternate, seldom opposite, with stipules. They are mainly simple, but where compound, are always palmate, never pinnate. Stipules may be reduced to hairs, glands, or spines, or in succulent species are sometimes absent.

The radially symmetrical flowers are unisexual, with the male and the female flowers usually occurring on the same plant. As can be expected from such a large family, there is a wide variety in the structure of the flowers. They can be monoecious or dioecious. The stamens (the male organs) can number from 1 to 10 (or even more). The female flowers are hypogynous, that is, with a superior ovary.

The genera in tribe Euphorbieae, subtribe Euphorbiinae ("Euphorbia" and close relatives) show a highly specialized form of pseudanthium ("false flower" made up of several true flowers) called a cyathium. This is usually a small cup-like involucre consisting of fused together bracts and peripheral nectary glands, surrounding a ring of male flowers, each a single stamen. In the middle of the cyathium stands a female flower: a single pistil with branched stigmas. This whole arrangement resembles a single flower.

The fruit is usually a schizocarp, sometimes a drupe. A typical schizocarp is the regma, a capsular fruit with three or more cells, each of which splits open at maturity into separate parts and then breaks away explosively, scattering the small seeds.

The family contains a large variety of phytotoxins (toxic substances produced by plants), mainly diterpene esters, alkaloids, glycosides, and ricin-type toxins.

A milky sap or latex is a characteristic of the subfamilies Euphorbioideae and Crotonoideae. This milky sap is poisonous in the Euphorbioideae, innocuous in the Crotonoideae. White mangrove ("Excoecaria agallocha"), or Blind-Your-Eye Mangrove sap causes blistering on contact and temporary blindness if it contacts the eyes. Other common names are Milky Mangrove, Buta Buta (Malay), Gewa (Bangladesh). The sap of spurge was used as a purgative.

Recent molecular studies have shown that the enigmatic family Rafflesiaceae, which was only recently recognized to belong to order Malpighiales, is derived from within Euphorbiaceae (Davis et al. 2007).


A number of plants of the Spurge family are of considerable economic importance. Prominent plants include Manioc, the Castor bean, and the Para rubber tree.Many are grown as ornamental plants, such as Poinsettia ("Euphorbia pulcherrima"). Leafy spurge ("Euphorbia esula") is an invasive weed in North America.


* Charles C. Davis, Maribeth Latvis, Daniel L. Nickrent, Kenneth J. Wurdack, David A. Baum. 2007. Floral gigantism in Rafflesiaceae. Science Express, published online January 11, 2007 (online abstract [ here] ).
* International Euphorbia Society
* [ Data from GRIN Taxonomy]
* [ Euphorbiaceae] in [ L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, information retrieval.]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Euphorbiaceae — Euphorbiacées …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Euphorbiacĕae — Euphorbiacĕae, Familie aus der Klasse der Tricoccae, Kräuter, Sträucher od. Bäume mit wässerigem od. oft milchigem Safte, der Stängel bei einigen fleischig, cactusartig, Blüthen eingeschlechtig. Besondere (allgemeine) Blüthenhülle unterständig,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Euphorbiaceae — Euphorbiaceae, Wolfsmilcher, Familie des Gewächsreiches, von sehr mannigfaltigen Formen, enthält einen eigenthümlichen Milchsaft und ist in vielen Arten officinell. Sehr wenige Arten sind aromatisch, die meisten geruchlos, giftig riechend, und… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Euphorbiaceae — Euphorbiaceae,   wissenschaftlicher Name der Wolfsmilchgewächse …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Euphorbiaceae — Euphorbiacées Euph …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Euphorbiaceae —   Euphorbiaceae Euphorbia esula …   Wikipedia Español

  • Euphorbiaceae — Wolfsmilchgewächse Scharfe Wolfsmilch (Euphorbia esula) Systematik Überabteilung: Samenpflanzen ( …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Euphorbiaceae — ● Acalyphoideae ● Crotonoideae ● Euphorbioideae La familia Euphorbiaceae la constituyen árboles, arbustos, matas y hierbas; típicamente con latex, monoicas o dioicas. Hojas simples, generalmente alternas a menudo estipuladas. Flores pequeñas, con …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Euphorbiaceae — noun a family of plants of order Geraniales • Syn: ↑family Euphorbiaceae, ↑spurge family • Hypernyms: ↑rosid dicot family • Member Holonyms: ↑Geraniales, ↑order Geraniales …   Useful english dictionary

  • Euphorbiaceae — …   Википедия

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.