Species list


Euphorbia mellifera

Canary spurge

Canary spurge, honey spurge (Eng); tabaiba de monte, tabaiba silvestre, adelfa de monte, filga (Spa).


DID YOU KNOW...? The Canary spurge disperses its seeds when its fruits burst open. Sometimes it is possible to hear a symphony of explosions.


This is the only species of the genus Euphorbia in Macaronesia that reaches tree size, and in some cases it can be as much as 15 m tall. Its trunk is thin, with smooth greyish bark. The crown is relatively small with upwards-pointing branches. It has no thorns but the entire plant does contain abundant sticky, whitish latex. The dark green leaves are persistent, simple, alternate, and narrowly lanceolate. They are up to 20 cm long, about 2.5 cm wide, have an entire margin, almost no stalks and very defined main ribs. They are usually grouped in bunches at the ends of the branches. The flowers of this species are very specialised and grouped into what is known in botany as a 'cyathium', a small cup-shaped structure, pinkish yellow in colour, and which holds a reduced female flower and several tiny male flowers with a single stamen. This set is surrounded by purple petal-like bracts. From February to May, the cyathia appear grouped into very open, drooping inflorescences. The fruits are more or less spherical capsules, up to 1 cm in diameter and divided into three parts. When ripe, the small yellowish-brown seeds are expelled explosively. They travel far enough to allow this species to spread.


The Canary spurge makes up part of the monteverde forest communities, both the laurel forest and Morella-Erica heath, and tends to grow between altitudes of 500 and 1200 m. It can often be found in rocky zones and below the sea of clouds. It usually grows best in shady and wet places, where it can become surprisingly large.


The Canary spurge is endemic to Macaronesia. It is found frequently in Madeira and more rarely in the Canary Islands. There are currently populations on La Palma, La Gomera and Tenerife.