Euphorbia / Shore Spurge
Jane Berney, New Zealand
The Unusual Plight of a Rare Plant
Irresistible, I am:
quite the catch of the day.
Stalked by too many in the mammalian kingdom,
snatched by creatures some brand as pests.
They forage and fossick, nibble and nip,
hunt me down, find me out.
No practice of restraint; not a thought.
A momentary morsel to them
a take-away beside the sea.
Gone are my days of languishing shore side,
shooting the breeze,
persuading the sun
to warm my milky veins.
Now, you can find my kind landscaped into traffic roundabouts
or hunkering on two tiny Gulf islands.
My flaw, my plight is simply that:
I am irresistible.
Euphorbia Glauca. A species under threat.
“Threatened species” was a term that I thought reserved for animals rather than plants. That is until I was introduced to the 26 Plants project and consequently my own mesmerizingly named Euphorbia Glauca.
I discovered that animals were part of the cause of this plant’s precarious position as one of Auckland’s rarest plants, and the reason for it being placed front and centre in a ‘Threatened Plants Garden’.
My journey began with a word.
The name called me in: ‘Euphorbia’. Could this be a distant relative of Miss Havisham? An ancient aunt who needle-pointed stories in between cups of Earl Grey tea?
Why was this plant, a native herb in fact, bequeathed such a mantle? To the beach comber its common name, ‘shore spurge’, might suggest some messy gelatinous goop. As a herb, you might expect it to be edible, although I don’t think I’d be tempted by its scaled stalky stems.
Nevertheless just about every type of animal, and weed, has quite literally nipped it in the bud. Euphorbia Glauca has virtually vanished from growing in the wild. In fact its greeny-grey leaves and tiny purple flowers can only be found on two protected islands in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf; Hauturu (Little Barrier Island) and Motukorea (Brown’s Island).
To the indigenous of Aotearoa; it’s known as waiuatua, milk of a God. Apparently, there is a milk-like liquid in its veins which might well intensify its delectability.
Drawn to Euphorbia by its name, I initially thought that my research would have to be online. For something so rare, is often not that accessible. However, as an Auckland resident I have at my doorstep the glorious Manurewa Botanic Gardens. And growing quietly within their Threatened Plants Garden is a demure collection of Euphorbia Glauca. Here, its seeds are harvested in special orchards for future propagation.
On a further google search, it seems that Euphorbia is available through a number of garden centres, which gives it a certain frisson, an edge; in the wild it is threatened but planted in the safe borders of a garden, it may bloom.
With the gift of a dewy morning, my artist partner for this work, Elle Anderson, captured some precious images of Euphorbia Glauca. She’s ordered a couple of plants to trial in her own protected garden. I may respectfully request a cutting.
Image: copyright Elle Anderson