Euphorbia Tiracalli Pencil Cactus
Euphorbia tirucalli (commonly known as Indian tree spurge, naked lady, pencil tree, pencil cactus, fire stick, or milk bush is a tree that grows in semi-arid tropical climates. A hydrocarbon plant, it produces a poisonous latex that can cause temporary blindness.
The pencil tree is a shrub or small tree with pencil-thick, green, smooth, succulent branches that reaches heights of growth of up to 7 meters. It has a cylindrical and fleshy stem with fragile succulent twigs that are 7 mm thick, often produced in whorls, longitudinally, finely striated. The oval leaves are 1 to 2.5 cm long and about 3 to 4 mm wide; they usually fall off early. It contains a milky, toxic and corrosive sap. The yellow flowers are at the ends of the branches.
It has a wide distribution in Africa in black clay soils, being prominently present in northeastern, central and southern Africa. It may also be native in other parts of the continent as well as some surrounding islands and the Arabian peninsula and has been introduced to many other tropical regions, such as Brazil, India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Ghana. It grows in dry areas, especially the savanna, and is often used to feed cattle or as hedging. It is well known in Sri Lanka where it is called Kalli in Tamil, as mentioned in the Akananuru by the Sri Lankan Tamil poet Eelattu Poothanthevanar and in Sinhala: වැරදි නවහන්දි, ගස් නවහන්දි Weradi Navahandi or Gass Nawahandi.
The milky latex from E. tirucalli is extremely irritating to the skin and mucosa and is toxic. Exposure to it can cause temporary blindness. Skin contact causes severe irritation, redness and a burning sensation. If ingested, it can cause burns to the mouth, lips and tongue. It is suggested to wear eye protection gear and gloves for handling the plant.