Euphorbia characias wulfenii (Mediterranean spurge) is an herbaceous, succulent, perennial plant that grows commonly in Greece and Turkey. It is grown with the United States as a specimen plant and ornamental and is related to the poinsettia. The plant produces curious chartreuse flowers in large quantities and blue-green leaves.
The plant grows well in a hardiness zones 7 through 10. In its native climate, it grows on rocky hillsides and in forests. Forming a shrubby bush, it grows quickly and may need frequent trimming. Euphorbia characias wulfenii self seeds easily and can become invasive if left uncontrolled.
Euphorbia characias wulfenii grows to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, forming dense bunches of flowers on tall stems that grow upward from the base of the plant. Each stem is covered with whorls of blue-green leaves. The leaves are a long, slender and 4 to 6 inches long, with a sharp point on the end--dense and crowded near the tips of the stems and more sparse toward the base.
Flowers form the large, dense heads at the end of each stem. Each flower appears at the end of the long stem approximately 2 to 3 inches long. The flower is actually quite small and is surrounded by a trumpet-shaped yellowish green bract, a specialized leaf that protects the flower. Each bract is between 1 and 2 inches across. The bracts have purplish-brown glands that produce nectar to attract insects for pollination.
Euphorbia characias wulfenii grows best in full sun. The plant is very drought tolerant and grows well in a wide variety of soils, preferring rocky terrains with good drainage. Removal of the flower heads after blooming can help control excessive propagation. In the winter, the plant can be left or cut back to the ground, to regrow in spring. Care should be taken when trimming this plant; the sticky white sap it exudes irritates skin and is poisonous if ingested.
Commonly used as a specimen plants in gardens and landscapes, Euphorbia characias wulfenii is popular for its curious appearance. Some varieties of the plant have bracts that range more to the yellow side, while other are greener. It is also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.