Euphorbia tirucalli (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Euphorbia tirucalli L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 1: 452 (1753).


  • Euphorbia rhipsaloides Lem. (1857),
  • Euphorbia media N.E.Br. (1911),
  • Euphorbia scoparia N.E.Br. (1911).

Vernacular names

  • Finger tree, pencil tree, rubber euphorbia (En). Euphorbe effilé, tirucalli (Fr)
  • Indonesia: patah tulang (general), kayu urip, tikel balung (Javanese)
  • Malaysia: kayu patah tulang, tulang-tulang, tentulang (Peninsular)
  • Philippines: bali-bali (Panay Bisaya), suelda-con-suelda (Bikol), suerda (Tagalog)
  • Laos: 'khi2hai bai
  • Thailand: khia cheen, khia thian, phayaa rai bai (northern)
  • Vietnam: xương cá, cây xương khô, san hô xanh.


Native to tropical Africa, but widely planted and naturalized throughout the tropics and subtropics. Within Malesia not yet reported from Borneo and New Guinea.


In traditional medicine, poultices from the stem or bark of E. tirucalli are applied to heal broken bones. The latex is used for similar purposes as that of E. antiquorum and E. neriifolia , but is poisonous, corrosive, and emetic. In Peninsular Malaysia, a poultice of the roots or stems has been applied to ulceration of the nose, haemorrhoids and swellings. Root scrapings, mixed with coconut oil, are given to cure stomach-ache. An extract of the plant shows antibiotic activity. E. tirucalli has also been used as a fish poison. It is widely planted as a hedge and for ornamental purposes, especially in dry regions. During the Second World War the latex was tested in South Africa as a rubber substitute, but it proved to be unstable. An oil obtained from the latex appeared useful for application in linoleum, oilskin and leather cloth industries. The white, close-grained and fairly hard wood is used for rafters, toys and veneer. It yields charcoal suitable for use in gunpowder.


  • An unarmed, succulent shrub or small tree up to 10(-15) m tall, branches often in whorls, terete, 5-8 mm in diameter, finely longitudinally striate.
  • Leaves alternate, early caducous, linear-lanceolate, 0.7-1.6 cm × 0.1-0.3 cm, narrowing at base, apex obtuse to subacute, glabrous throughout or puberulent below, sessile or subsessile, stipules minute, glandular.
  • Inflorescence on the stem apices and in bifurcations, generally composed of unisexual cyathia, bracts rounded, small; cyathia with 5 subglobose to transversely elliptical, bright yellow glands.
  • Capsule exserted on a tomentose pedicel, subglobose, 7-8 mm in diameter, glabrescent.
  • Seeds smooth, buff speckled with brown and with a dark brown ventral line.

E. tirucalli easily naturalizes in brushwood, open woodland and grassland, up to 2000 m altitude.

Selected sources

97, 134, 154, 202, 217, 287, 337, 453, 531, 580, 638, 647, 828, 864, 865, 960, 979, 1035, 1074, 1126, 1128, 1135, 1178, 1181, 1184, 1185, 1186, 1380, 1402, 1499, 1525, 1547, 1610.


Nguyen Nghia Thin & M.S.M. Sosef