Candelabra Tree

Latin name: Euphorbia Ingens, Genus: Spurges

The candelabra tree, not to be confused with candelabra aloe, is a succulent plant that can grow very tall, up to 30 feet/ 12 meters. Famously, all the branches point upward, so the yellow flowers (and latterly red) it can resemble a giant yellow flame from a distance (or many yellow candles when yellow). This succulent can be grown in planters or gardens, but when given enough space and nutrients, it grows larger in the wild. This plant can live for 60 years or longer. In the wild the tree can be found in warm climates all around the world.

Dispersion and Habitat

This unique looking tree is named after, Greek physician Euphorbus who found it in the Atlas mountains. Nowadays, it’s mostly found near the equator, Africa and East Indies. The candelabra tree can be found in many coastal and inland areas in southern Africa. It prefers hot, dry areas, as it does not need a lot of water to survive. Most adult trees can live year to year from only the moisture from winter rains. Young trees may need more water to stimulate early growth.

Its branches are irregular, and each stem has a series of ridges, each with distinctive spines. Its stems often grow very close together, giving it the appearance of a balloon on top of a stick. The stems are green in color, while the bark is light gray or brown. In the spring, these stems are lined with beautiful greenish-yellow flowers that become red.

Candelabra Tree
Candelabra Tree

This tree can grow in both rocky and sandy environments. Its strong roots ensure that it can dig into whatever is beneath it and stay rooted. Domestically, the spiny tree grows to a smaller size and is sometimes used on borders of land as a naturally growing security fence.

Many birds, especially woodpeckers, like to nest in candelabra trees. They can also eat the seeds from the flowers, which helps to spread the seeds to new areas. Its flowers are also attractive to insects like butterflies and bees, who help to pollinate them. Porcupines, eat their roots as part of their staple diet.

Sap of the Candelabra is Poisonous

The milky latex of this tree is severely poisonous. It can cause blindness and severe skin irritation, when ingested by humans or many animals. There are no recorded cases of human deaths by poisoning. On the other hand in times of drought rhinoceroses have been observed drinking the sap from the tree. The toxicity means that candelabra trees don’t have to worry about pests, since they are so poisonous.

Fantastic Facts About The Candelabra

  • The term candelabra is coined due to the tree’s similarity to a candelabra (a large bunched candle stick holder).
  • There are a reported 5,000 species, with 50 genera and 484 species found in South Africa.

Beneficial Uses of the Candelabra Tree

When used properly and carefully, this latex can have beneficial uses. It can serve as a purgative, meaning it is used to clear your body’s systems of toxins. It can also be used as a natural drug to cure ulcers. The Venda and Sotho peoples (people living on the South African and Zimbabwe border) even use it as a local natural medicine to protect against cancers.

In some regions, the latex is also used for fish poisoning. Again, one must be careful, because it is highly toxic to humans and cattle. Another useful benefit of the candelabra is the wood and pulp of this tree is used in construction. It can be used to make doors, planks, and boats, among other things. So although it may be highly toxic, it still has many uses to humans and animals alike: medicines, construction, nourishment and nesting for various species of birds.

Due to its low need for water and love of sunlight, the candelabra tree can be grown in both gardens and rockeries. Its toxins mean pests are not a problem. However, it should not be grown in areas where children can play with it or try to eat the latex.

Conservation Status

Least concern. It is fairly widespread and has shown no decrease in population.

The Candelabra Tree In Literature

Terror rose up his chest, burning his throat; he blinked water from his eyes, maybe rain, maybe tears. Then, through the darkness and the downpour, a darkened hill appeared. Fifteen paces ahead, rising steeply upward, on its brow, a distinct tree stood sentry. Of skyward pointing branches leaves flittered and pointed upward like black flames. The lone candelabra tree, breathed Jasiri.

E.G. Price, The Zambezi Allies

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