Wood Spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides

Wood Spurge is not to my mind one of the most exciting wild flowers you are likely to encounter. It is green, although it is a lighter fresher  colour than the leaves which typical for this group are dark blue/green. Its  quite easy to overlook it . The stems often appear as a blood red colour, you can see this in the photo below. Wood Spurge

As you can see from the photo above it flowers quite early in the year, at the same time as Wood anemones and before the trees get their leaves on. So it is early March through to May.

The flowers themselves  are very small, what makes the ‘show’ if you can call it that are bracts which form a cup that the flower sits in.

Wood Spurge is unlike most woodland plants in that it overwinters with its leaves on, not as a bulb, corm or rhizome, tucked up underground. I suppose this has the advantage that it can make use of the light and photosynthesis throughout the winter as long as it is warm enough and it is not covered with snow. Here are some photos I took on 30th December 2017. This may be the reason for its more southerly distribution.

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It is not that widely distributed although I see it quite often in the Wye valley area however that is more or less its heart land. If you look it up on the internet then you will find that there are numerous nurseries offering it for sale and there are several different cultivars. You can get one called Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ which has bracts tinted purple. Gardeners like it because it is one of those plants which will grow in the parts others will not reach…. there was a beer that did that wasn’t there? However as is often the case, these garden varieties then find their way into the wild and breed with the native population. Not good.

As with all the Euphorbias it produces a white sticky liquid when the leaves or stems are damaged, broken or picked. This is poisonous and will cause a great deal of pain and inflammation if it gets into sensitive parts like your eyes, mouth, a cut or other regions!, so be warned. Best to leave it alone and not to pick it. Also I was told by a local  game keeper that poachers and country folk would use it to kill fish. A bundle of it was gathered and then bruised and placed into a pond. The fish would then be paralysed and rise to the surface, and  the good ones could be selected and taken home for cooking.

I have been told various tales by a couple of game keepers that I have known over the years; Sultanas and raisins soaked in rum used to intoxicate pheasants so that they can be easily approached and caught.  Bread balanced on top of a brick but the brick is balanced on a stick and in the middle of a pond. The bread has a big fishing hook embedded in it and  is attached to the brick by  a short length of fishing line. When a duck takes the bread it gets the hook caught in its beak, gives a tug and the brick falls off the stick and to the bottom of the pond dragging the ducks head below the water and it drowns. Later the person who set it up can retrieve and subsequently cook the bird. Sorry a bit off piste from the Spurges. So finally a few more photos of this ‘beautiful’ plant.

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