Looking good now.... The Euphorbia collection

Early summer this year is being announced not by warm sunshine but by the appearance of the lime green of the Euphorbia collection in flower.

Sitting in the centre of the walled garden, this collection of plants really draws the eye as you enter through the ticket office. The Botanic Garden is a national collection holder of hardy Euphorbias.

We have over 60 different species of Euphorbia in our national collection including Euphorbia characias. This plant grows wild across the Mediterranean basin from Portugal to Turkey and is an extremely variable species. Growing at the western end of the Mediterranean with dark red/purple nectar glands this plant is known as Euphorbia characias subsp. characias but by the far eastern end of the Mediterranean the nectar glands are typically yellow and horned. These plants were originally named as a separate species – Euphorbia wulfenii but are now considered to be a subspecies and are known as Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii.

Euphorbia characias ssp. characias

Euphorbia flowers sit within a structure called the cyathium (from the greek word for a cup or ladle). Around the rim of the cyathium is a ring of swollen appendages which are glands that secrete nectar in order to attract and reward pollinators. It is these glands that vary so greatly in this euphorbia species.

These plants are extremely hardy and have come through the past two winters well. They certainly make excellent additions to the garden. In addition to the natural variations in this species, many cultivars have been developed over the years. 54 are currently listed in the RHS plant finder although only 35 are listed as currently available. Are you growing any of them?