With today's posting, we welcome summer student, Stephen Coughlin, whose duties include Botany Photo of the Day. This entry was written by Stephen and the photo was taken by Eric La Fountaine.
Euphorbiaceae (the spurge family), which consists of around 300 genera and 7500 species, is native to both the temperate and tropical climate zones. Euphorbia griffithii is a metre-high herbaceous perennial that hails from the eastern Himalayas to the mountains of Myanmar (Burma) and western China. It ignites into bloom in early summer. The cultivar 'Fireglow', which is more deeply coloured than the species, welcomes visitors at the entrance to UBC Botanical Garden with a series of chromatic juxtapositions simultaneously subtle and strong: on its floral bracts, rich reds mix with searing yellows and oranges as if on the palette of an Old Master, while the dark burgundy of the stem and the green of the waxy leaves lend further contrast and contribute to the intensity of the blazing blooms above. This intensity culminates in the fall, when the floral apparatus turns brick red.
The vividness of the bloom, which to some suggests a measure of resilience and assertion, is indeed matched by the vigour with which 'Fireglow' confronts its surroundings. The species is robust enough to withstand both hostile pollutants and the vast spectrum of weather conditions associated with Zones 4 through 9; E. griffithii tends toward the invasive, however, at least in garden situations. Paraphrasing renowned gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd, the species is aggressive, and its sustained struggles when matched with a similarly dominant species leave the gardener only to referee. In addition to these somewhat bellicose tendencies, 'Fireglow' has another menacing trick up its sleeve. While the plant's capacity to repel the onslaughts of deer and other animals is undoubtedly a benefit in the garden, gardeners beware, for the milky sap that fills the stems of this beautiful spurge is toxic.
For those wishing to explore the plants of the Himalayas, Laboritoire d'Ecologie Alpine has a searchable database, Flora Himalayan Database, which provides links to other Himalayan flora resources (Original French).