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 How Dangerous are Euphorbias?

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avid contributor & moderator

Number of posts : 862
Location : Melbourne
Registration date : 2008-05-07

PostSubject: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Sat Jun 21, 2008 4:52 pm

a good read:


Euphorbias are among the most poisonous plants on earth. In some species the sap (latex) is so toxic that it can result in blistering, blindness, severe ulceration and burning equivalent to 3rd degree burns caused by fire. Some are so poisonous that merely breathing in the air near a 'bleeding' plant can result in a burning sensation of the mouth and throat. some people experience allergic reactions to the sap further complicating reactions.
In Africa the sap of Euphorbias is used for fish and arrow poisons. They have also been used for homicidal purposes. drinking water contaminated with even dilute concentrations of sap can result in death, thus using the sap as fish poison upstream in a river can kill the people downstream. cows fed on certain euphorbias produce deformed offspring.

and yet we grow and love them! they are an extremely popular succulent genus with collectors. some people collect nothing else. the diversity of this enormous genus is absolutely astounding. many are very attractive plants.

paradoxically, many euphorbias also have medicinal and in some cases even edible qualities. often the same species has both a good and bad use.

it is common to be told of cases involving contact with euphorbia sap resulting in severe burning of the skin and temporary blindness resulting in hospitalisation. and yet some collectors come into contact with the sap on a regular basis and experience only mild, if any, reactions. depends on the sensitivity of the person to the sap.

after you read through these horror stories don't be offput growing these plants. care is all that is required. wash off sap immediately if you come into contact.
my only personal incidents involve minor skin irritations and redness caused by contact with Euphorbia mammillaris and horrida sap. also when i accidently sticked my euphorbia ammak with the spines of a pilosocereus i experienced a dry burning sensation of throat and mouth. what amazed me the most was the tiny quantity of sap present, a few pinpricks worth, and this was outside with good ventilation.

would love to hear of anyone else's tales.
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Calm and Collected

Number of posts : 464
Location : Corio. Victoria
Registration date : 2008-05-14

PostSubject: Re: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Sat Jun 21, 2008 5:25 pm

Never had any reaction with the sap from Euphorbia.

I grow hundreds of Adeniums, Adenia and others that a very toxic

Read this on the Adenia, so think I had better be careful. The whole plant including seeds is toxic

Clinical Effects & Treatment
Toxin Classification

1. Toxin Name : Deidaclin
Synonyms : Deidamin
Toxin Type : Cyanogenic glycoside
Chemical Formulae : C12H17NO6
Molecular Weight : 271.27
Activity : Toxic. Releases cyanide on hydrolysis

........."effects comparable to ricin"........at nanogram concentrations.

Did not find this out until after I had removed the sticky substance around some seeds a while ago.........had not reaction that I know of

I am still here, some would say sadly LOL
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avid contributor & moderator

Number of posts : 862
Location : Melbourne
Registration date : 2008-05-07

PostSubject: Re: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Sat Jun 21, 2008 5:40 pm

Shocked Ricin? cyanide? wow quite impressive toxicity there Betty!
ricin is what is found in the castor oil plant, a plant introduced to Australia in an attempt to create an oil industry that largely never materialised. it naturalised and can now conveniently be found growing wild in neglected yards and vacant blocks across the country.
extremely poisonous, 'just one milligram of ricin can kill an adult'.
this is getting quite interesting, or maybe i'm the sad one lol Laughing
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Calm and Collected

Number of posts : 158
Location : Bendigo Victoria . Zone 6
Registration date : 2008-05-02

PostSubject: Re: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Sat Jun 21, 2008 6:18 pm

when we were in Mildura ikn Oct 07we were told of a chap that had an open cut on his leg that came in contact with Euphorbia sap and there was not a happy outcome for him. we were told by an older cactus club member that Aeonium lindleyi is an antidote for Euphorbia poisoning but I dont know how it would be used. ) will endevour to find out as we have a few Euphorbia and I find them intriguing.there are a few articles on the web re the Euphorbia sap. Handlle with care and awareness. always wash tools and anything that came in contact with the sap. disposable gloves are cheaper than a casualty visit ! Laughing
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avid contributor & moderator

Number of posts : 862
Location : Melbourne
Registration date : 2008-05-07

PostSubject: Re: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:02 pm

yes, i have read that particular Aeonium is an antidote for Euphorbia sap. Interesting, this would be a handy plant to have around. Perhaps the leaves are crushed then applied? has anyone got this Aeonium in their collection?
There is also supposed to be another antidote in the form of another Euphorbia. called Euphorbia hirta, this is a common non succulent leafy weed. The common Portulacaria afra has also been suggested for the same use. I don't know about the effectiveness of any of these though.
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Number of posts : 1824
Location : NSW
Registration date : 2008-04-04

PostSubject: Re: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:15 pm

I knoew there was a reason I don't grow succulents Smile umm well hardly any
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Number of posts : 139
Location : melbourne
Registration date : 2014-02-28

PostSubject: Re: How Dangerous are Euphorbias?   Tue Apr 22, 2014 10:38 pm

just spotted this thread and thought i'de post.
i know its ages old but why not.

the sap varies from plant to plant obiously but the conccuctions used by maniacs to assasinate peeps is a refined or worked on version of the sap that exsists in these plants.
clearly directly administered into the blood stream the effects are known to be fatal as the previous mention of the poison arrows/darts.
chances of this happening in your garden are squilch.
i wouldnt recomened this to anyone however when i was younger and invinciable i decided to sample much less than a drop of euphorbia sap on my tongue.... ive said this before on the forum " it was like the hottest chilli to the power of one hundred thousand ". it was anything but pleasant. lol. no seconds thats for sure!
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