Sticks on Fire, Euphorbia tirucalli, is a native of South Africa, which can be grown in the ground in a frost free climate or in a pot in colder regions. It is easy to see how it came by its common name as during colder times the year its stems turn red. This is not by accident.
The tiny leaves open for such a short period of time that the plant relies upon chlorophyll in the stems for photosynthesis. The new young stems are pale yellow and it take two seasons for chlorophyll to develop. During this time the new growth depends upon the chlorophyll in the older stems. Without this chlorophyll which would normally reflect green, the stems reflect several colors ranging from yellow though salmon to red. This is particularly noticeable in the winter months.
Here they are seen brightening up the winter garden in Phoenix, Arizona.
This is one I have in a pot. It spent the summer in a more shaded part of the garden which is probably why it is not as fiery as the ones I saw in Arizona. This year it will experience the full blast of the Texas summer sun. These second year stems will quickly turn green and new growth will be pale yellow.
Because the plant belongs to the Euphorbia family it produces that milky sap which can cause a severe skin irritation. It is best to wear gloves and glasses when dealing with the plant. It is best placed where it will not come into contact with passers by. The plant grows quickly from cuttings and is about as carefree as you can get if protected from winter frosts.
Foliage Follow-up - December 2017
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