by Stephen Mifsud
   22 Jun 2024      ()
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Euphorbia characias   (Large Mediterranean Spurge)

Euphorbia characias  (EUPHORBIACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands after year 2000.

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Profile Date Oct-2006 (taxon update: Oct-2006)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (2022). Euphorbia characias - datasheet created on Oct-2006. Retrieved from on 22-Jun-2024

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Euphorbia characiasL.
Published in Sp. Pl. : 463 (1753)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

Tithymalus characias Hill
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life] []

Plant Family :

Euphorbiaceae Juss. (The Spurge Family)
30 species from the Euphorbiaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Large Mediterranean Spurge, Large Spurge, Wulffen Spurge

Maltese name(s) :

Tengħud tal-ħaġar

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common    Frequent     Scarce     Rare    Very rare    Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: Nano-Phanerophyte ( small trees to large shrubs, usually <5 m )
Germination [info]: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection :

Protected by law: Schedule VI of [S.L. 549.44] (strictly protected species)

Red List (1989) :

Threatened status for the Maltese Islands and has been listed in the Red Data Book (1st ed.)

Flowering Time :

January – April

Colour of Flowers:

Green or Brown


May cause allergic reactions or irritation in contact with the skin or mucous membranes

Name Derivation :

Euphorbia: Named for Euphorbus, a Greek physician to Juba II - King of Mauretania of Numibia (52-50 BC - 23 AD), who might have used a certain plant in allusion to his swollen belly, possibly the plant Euphorbia resinifera. (Further info: [link]). Euphorbus can have also been derived from 'Eu-' = good or true and '-phorbe' = pasture or fodder, thus giving the meaning well-fed or provides a fat-belly from consumption. (Greek origin )
characias: From 'xaraxias', the ancient name Dioscorides (40 - 90 AD) gave this species in the first century A.D. (Greek origin )

Planting in rural areas :

Encouraged to be planted in the wild that is in rural areas including ODZ.

Description, Habitat and Distribution
Habitat in Europe: Dry, fairly open ground.
Preferred habitat in Malta: Rocky places such as at valley sides or garigue. Prefers to grow in areas having stones.
Botanical Description: Densely tomentose, rarely glabrescent, glaucous, caespitose perennial, sometimes with biennial stems up to 180 cm, with 13-30(-40) axillary rays. Leaves (14-)30-130 x 4-10(-17) mm, linear to oblanceolate or occasionally obovate, entire; those of the first year's growth usually larger than those of the second. Ray-leaves like the upper cauline. Raylet-leaves suborbicular-deltate, usually connate in pairs at the base. Rays 10-20, usually twice, but up to 4 times dichotomous. Glands variable. Capsule 4-7 x 5-6 mm, deeply sulcate, smooth, densely villous. Seeds 2.5-3.8 mm, ovoid, silver-grey.
Distributional range: Mediterranean region, Portugal.

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):
Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):
Albania, the Balaeric Islands, Corse, Crete, France (incl. Monaco and Channel Islands but excluding Corse), Greece, Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), ex-Jugoslavia, Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta
Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(from Euro+Med Checklist, 2019)
  Country codes  
AE(G) Al Bl Co Cr Ga Gr Hs It Ju Li Lu Ma Sa Si Tu(A E)

Links & Further literature (0 papers)

Google Web

Google Images

Google Scholar

Research Gate




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



World Flora Online

Plants of the World Online

Vienna Virt. Herb.

RBGE Herbarium

KEW Herbarium




Kindly Email if there are papers and publications about local studies or information about this species to be included in the list above.

Species Images (16 images)
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-0.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-1.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-2.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-3.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-4.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-5.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-6.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-7.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-8.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-9.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-10.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-11.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-12.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-13.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-14.
   Euphorbia characias   -   Image Code: EUPCR-15.

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Section B:   Where have you seen this plant on the Maltese Islands?
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