Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Cat. Pl. Madag., Euphorb.: 16 (1935).
Origin and geographic distribution
Euphorbia mainty is endemic to south-eastern Madagascar.
The latex is taken in water as a vermifuge, despite its toxicity. The use is well-known and people are careful about the quantities used.
The latex was formerly mixed with fibres from other plants to make wooden boats watertight; it was also made into varnish to make boats water resistant. The latex is mixed with latex from other plants to make a rubber. The plants are browsed by cattle. Euphorbia mainty is grown as a pot plant in Europe and the United States.
Monoecious, glabrous, much-branched shrub up to 8 m tall, most of the time leafless; branches slender, cylindrical, with compressed tips, green; stems with white latex. Leaves arranged spirally, simple and entire, almost sessile, on new growth only, soon deciduous; blade oblong, up to 15 mm × 3 mm, base cuneate, apex rounded. Inflorescence a cyme near the end of branches, hairy, consisting of clusters of flowers, each cluster called a ‘cyathium’; cyathium unisexual, c. 4 mm in diameter, developing only male flowers or a single female flower; nectar producing glands yellow. Flowers unisexual; male flowers consisting of a single stamen; female flowers with superior ovary, 3-celled. Fruit an almost globose capsule, c. 8 mm in diameter, on reflexed pedicel c. 1 mm long, 3-seeded. Seed ovoid, c. 3.5 mm × 2.5 mm.
Euphorbia comprises about 2000 species and has a worldwide distribution, with at least 750 species occurring in continental Africa and about 150 species in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands. Most species present in Madagascar are endemic to the island. Several other Euphorbia spp. with small leaves and photosynthetic stems, endemic to Madagascar, are locally used. The steam of leafy twigs in boiling water of Euphorbia plagiantha Drake (synonym: Euphorbia fiha Decary) is inhaled to treat asthma. The thick latex is used as glue for wood and paper. The very corrosive latex of the crushed stems of Euphorbia enterophora Drake, Euphorbia decorsei Drake and Euphorbia plagiantha are all used as fish poison. The trunk of Euphorbia enterophora is covered with a wax, which was formerly harvested for polishing. Euphorbia enterophora is also planted as a pot plant and sold as such on the internet.
Euphorbia mainty occurs in dry thickets and open forest, from sea-level up to 500 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Euphorbia mainty is common there are no threats to its genetic diversity. As a (semi-)succulent Euphorbia species, its trade is controlled under CITES appendix 2.
Euphorbia mainty will probably remain of local importance as a medicinal plant.
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• Debray, M., Jacquemin, H. & Razafindrambao, R., 1971. Contribution à l’inventaire des plantes médicinales de Madagascar. Travaux et Documents No 8. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 150 pp.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2008. Euphorbia mainty (Poiss.) Denis ex Leandri. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.