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Euphorbia brachycera
Euphorbia brachycera.  Synonym: Tithymalus brachycera. (Shorthorn spurge)
Euphorbiaceae (Ephedra Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, woodlands, shrublands.  Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 23, 2006.

Shorthorn Spurge grows in a tangled mass up to several feet wide and over a foot tall (as pictured here in a moist area) or it may be spindly and solitary in dry conditions. It has a wide range, from moist sandy areas to dry Pinyon-Juniper forests to Ponderosa and low conifer forests.  

"Tithymalus" is, according to William Weber, an "ancient Greek name for a plant with milky sap". "Brachy cera" is Greek for "short horned". In 1753 Linnaeus named the genus "Euphorbia", most probably, according to Intermountain Flora, for "Euphorbus, physician of King Juba of Numidia, an ancient kingdom of North Africa." "Euphorbia" is also the classical name of a related North African species.

Euphorbia brachycera was first collected by Charles Wright in 1821 in Texas and was named Euphorbia brachycera by George Engelmann. In 1913 John Small (1869-1838) reclassified it as a Tithymalus. (See also Euphorbia fendleri.)

Euphorbia brachycera
Euphorbia brachycera.  Synonym: Tithymalus brachycera. (Shorthorn spurge)
Euphorbiaceae (Ephedra Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, woodlands, shrublands.  Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 23, 2006.

Euphorbia brachycera
Euphorbia brachycera.  Synonym: Tithymalus brachycera. (Shorthorn spurge)
Euphorbiaceae (Ephedra Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, woodlands, shrublands.  Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 23, 2006.

What appears to be a flower is instead a cyathium, a cup-like structure (the green structure shown in profile at the far right) that houses a central pistillate flower surrounded by several staminate flowers. The yellow horned structures are not true petals but merely extensions of the cyathium. 

When fertilized, the central pistillate flower elongates, swells, and hangs out of the cyathium (bottom center of photo).

Euphorbia brachycera
Euphorbia brachycera.  Synonym: Tithymalus brachycera. (Shorthorn spurge)
Euphorbiaceae (Ephedra Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Canyons, woodlands, shrublands.  Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 23, 2006.

 

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Euphorbia brachycera