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Fl. Cap. (Harvey) 5(2.2): 320. 1915 [Oct 1915]
Origin and Habitat: West District and Willowmore District, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Drom Beaufort West to Klaarstroom, Calitzdorp and Jansenville.
Habitat and ecology: Nama Karoo, Succulent Karoo. Euphorbia decepta grows on stony and loamy flats. This species is widespread and not in danger of extinction.
- Euphorbia decepta N.E.Br.
AFRIKAANS (Afrikaans): Melkpol
Description: Euphorbia decepta is a dwarf, leafless and spineless succulent less than 80 mm tall, with a flattened, tuber-like stem, or caudex, partly buried in the ground, but the branches are beset with the dry, rigid remains of the peduncles, not spine-tipped, all scarcely above soil level. The stem and branches are so much like dry ground in colour, that at a short distance they would not be easily detected.
Euphorbia decepta is a typical representative the section Medusea (Medusa heads euphorbias) characterized by short, sometimes very thick and almost spherical primary stem crowned with spreading finger-like branches.
Plant body: The thickened rootstock, merges into a flattened globose stem partly below ground, up to 8 cm tall and 10 cm in diameter, the exposed part marked by depressed lines into irregular hexagonal flattened podaria (tessellations) about 12 mm in diameter with a small compressed-conical (as if pinched between the thumb and finger) tubercle at the centre of each. Branches all over the top and sides of the body, except at the very small apical centre, and at the base of the bole, short, finger-like, to 3.7 cm and 8 mm in diameter and 6-12 mm apart, carrying persistent fertile peduncles 5-15 mm long, the youngest branches ascending, placed around the apical growing point between tessellations, each branch closely tessellated with spirally arranged slightly prominent rhomboid tubercles up to 5 mm in diameter. Stem and branches glabrous, dull greyish-green or olive-grey-green above, with a somewhat brownish tint. The odour of the milky juice is very disagreeable.
Leaves: Very rudimentary, inconspicuous and soon deciduous, 0.5-1.5 mm long, ovate or deltoid-ovate, obtuse, fleshy.
Inflorescence: Peduncles, solitary in the axils of the tubercles at branches tips; 4-15 mm long, bearing 1 cyatium and about 4 very small scale-like deciduous bracts, glabrous, hardening and persisting for several years, but not spine-pointed.
Flower (Cyathim): Cyathium 5-7 mm in diameter and 3 mm deep, cup-shaped, glabrous and green tinged with purple outside with a tuft of hairs opposite the glands. Nectar-glands 5, separate, 1.25-2.25 mm in their greater diameter, transversely oblong or elliptic-oblong with 3-6 minute teeth, on the outer margin, dark green, pubescent on the back. Ovary sessile, included in the Cyathium, glabrous; styles united into a stout column 2-2.25 mm long, longitudinally grooved, with stout recurved-spreading stigmas 1 mm long, exserted.
Fruits: Obtusely lobed, often purple-tinged, sessile.
Taxonomic notes: Un-like the related Euphorbia fusca and Euphorbia arida E. decepta has a glabrous ovary. Glands are well separated, dark green and with minute teeth. Closely related is E. astrophora, so-named because from above it appears star-like.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons” Springer, 2002
2) N. E. Brown, J. Hutchinson and D. Prain., “Flora Capensis”, Vol 5, 1925
3) Doreen Court, “Succulent Flora of Southern Africa” CRC Press, 01/June/2000
4) Alain Campbell White, Robert Allen Dyer, Boyd L. Sloane, “The succelent Euphorbisae (southern Africa)” Abbey garden press, 1941
5) Werner Rauh “The Wonderful World of Succulents: Cultivation and Description of Selected Succulent Plants Other Than Cacti” Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
6) Bruyns, P.V. 2012. “Nomenclature and typification of southern African species of Euphorbia”. Bothalia 42(2):217-245.
7) Bruyns, P.V., Mapaya, R.J. and Hedderson, T. 2006. “A new subgeneric classification for Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae) in southern Africa based on ITS and psbA-trnH sequence data”. Taxon 55(2):397-420.
8) Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. “Red data list of southern African plants”. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
9) Marx, G. 1996. “Euphorbia astrophora J.G.Marx, sp. nov., as new species of Euphorbiaceae from the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa”. Cactus and Succulent Journal 68:311-314.
10) Marx, G. 1998. “Euphorbia astrophora J.G.Marx, a recently described miniature medusoid Euphorbia from the Eastern Cape Province”. Aloe 35(1):12-13.
11) Marx, G. 1999. “Euphorbia suppressa J.G. Marx and Euphorbia gamkensis J.G. Marx, two hitherto-unnamed species from the Western Cape Province, South Africa”. Cactus and Succulent Journal (USA) 71(1):33-40.
12) Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. “Red List of South African Plants”. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
13) Snijman, D.A. 2013. “Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region 2: The extra Cape flora”. Strelitzia 30. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
14) Vlok, J. and Schutte-Vlok, A.L. 2010. “Plants of the Klein Karoo”. Umdaus Press, Hatfield.
15) Archer, R.H., von Staden, L., Raimondo, D., Dold, A.P., Schutte-Vlok, A.L. & Victor, J.E. 2014. Euphorbia decepta N.E.Br. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2018/10/28
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