December 12
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Plant Genus of the family Euphorbiaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Acalypha This is a pantropical genus of over 400 species of perennials, shrubs and trees that are best known for their long catkins or spikes of flowers, which are often bright magenta to red shades. Their leaves are simple but usually fairly large, and most often they are oval with toothed edges. While the foliage of one species, Acalypha wilkesiana, is the main feature because of its showy variegations, in most cases the plants are grown for their flowers. Individually these are minute, but those of female plants form densely packed catkins that in some species can be as much as 18?in (45?cm) long. CULTIVATION: Warm frost-free conditions are essential as is plenty of moisture during the growing season. Plant in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil, and feed well to keep the foliage lush and the plants flowering freely. Pinch back the young shoots and deadhead the flowers to keep the growth compact; otherwise little pruning is required. Propagate from cuttings and if growing indoors watch for mealybugs and whiteflies.
Aleurites Of the 5 species in this Asian-Australasian genus of the euphorbia family, at least 3 are economically important for the oils obtained from their large seeds. The genus includes evergreen species from tropical Asia and Australasia, and deciduous species from East Asia. They are medium-sized to large trees with a straight central trunk and tiered branches. The leaves are large and heart-shaped, or sometimes lobed (at least on young saplings). The flowers are more or less funnel-shaped with 5 white or cream petals, appearing in large clusters at the branch tips. The fruits are globular with a husk similar to that of a walnut, enclosing 2 to 5 large nut-like seeds, which may cause violent vomiting if eaten. The deciduous species, which include the tung-oil and mu-oil trees, have been treated by some botanists as a distinct genus, Vernicia. CULTIVATION: All species do best in climates with long humid summers. They thrive in deep fertile soils, making very rapid growth for the first 5 to 10 years, but will still grow well in much poorer soils. The deciduous species tolerate moderate winter frosts. Propagate from fresh seed in autumn (germination is sometimes slow), or from hardwood cuttings for the deciduous species.
Euphorbia This large genus of about 2,000 species of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, both evergreen and deciduous, is distributed throughout the world. It covers a diverse range of form and natural habitats, from the spiny and succulent cactus-like species of hot dry areas to leafy perennials from cool-temperate climates. All species contain a poisonous milky sap that can cause severe skin irritation and, sometimes, temporary blindness on contact with the eyes. The purgative qualities of the sap are recognized in the common name given to the genus, spurge, from the Latin expurgare, ?to purge?. The flowers, borne singly or in clusters, are very small and insignificant, but are often accompanied by colorful petal-like bracts such as the scarlet ones of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). CULTIVATION: The diversity of form makes it difficult to generalize cultural details. Consider the plant?s natural habitat, and provide similar growing conditions. In cool-temperate climates most of the succulent and subtropical species will require greenhouse protection but some will grow in dry rock gardens. Due to the toxicity of the sap care should always be taken when handling these plants. The best method of propagation also varies between species. Seed is the only practicable method for some species while others will grow from stem-tip cuttings or division.
Phyllanthus This large cosmopolitan genus of about 600 species of evergreen or deciduous herbs, shrubs and trees is native to tropical and subtropical regions. The smooth-edged, shortly stalked or stalkless leaves, often with pinnate veining, are alternate or spirally arranged. Small petal-less flowers are borne singly or in clusters in the leaf axils during spring and summer and are followed by small, grape-sized, 2-seeded fruits. Phyllanthus acidus and P. emblica are grown for their fruits, edible when cooked. CULTIVATION: They thrive only in warm climates and need full sun and humus-enriched well-drained soil with a plentiful supply of water during dry weather. They do particularly well in coastal conditions. Propagate from seed or from firm tip cuttings.
Ricinus This single-species genus from northeast Africa has naturalized throughout the tropical regions but is considered a prized annual in many cold-climate gardens and is grown for its deeply lobed, and often colored, leaves. CULTIVATION: It requires fertile soil with ample organic matter added to ensure moisture retention and free drainage. Although a full sun position suits this plant, its brittle stems need to be protected from winds and frost. When grown from seed care must be taken as the seed coats, and other parts of the plant, are extremely toxic.

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