Sunday, August 9, 2009

Spurge Surprise

At the weekend I visited Waresley Wood.

Before I made it into the safe sanctuary of the trees, I got waylaid oggling the edge of an arable field abutting the wood. One's eye is drawn to unfamiliar things and mine caught site of this little insignificant plant - a new plant to me - dwarf spurge, Euphorbia exigua.

Euphorbias were apparently named in honour of one, Euphorbus, who was a Greek physician to Numidian King (who lived in about 50BC). This Dr Euphorbus is reputed to have used a spurge plant to cure the king of a nasty swollen belly.

It's a little hazy how old Euphorbus used the spurge as a cure, as the whole genus is well known for its irritant sap (latex) produced when the plants are cut or damaged. Some Euphorbias are powerful purgatives. Hmmm. Perhaps the king had a long visit to the loo?

Hence the name 'spurge', which is from the old French 'espurge', which means, not surprisingly, to purge.

All from one little arable weed.