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(spurge), a genus of plants of the family Euphorbiaceae. The plants, which contain a milky juice, are perennial herbs and shrubs (often cactuslike and succulent); less frequently they are treelike forms and annuals. The leaves are generally alternate and entire; sometimes they are rudimentary. The unisexual flowers usually do not have a perianth and are in distinctive inflorescences—involucres, or cyathia—which form a compound, often umbellate inflorescence. The fruit is a capsule that separates into three monospermous lobes.
There are approximately 2,000 species of Euphorbia, distributed throughout the world, predominantly in the tropical, subtropical, and temperate zones. Approximately 170 species are found in the USSR, growing primarily on arid mountain slopes in Middle Asia and the Caucasus. The species Euphorbia virgata and E. esula, which are widely distributed in meadows and thickets, grow most often as weeds among cultivated crops and in wastelands. The milky juice of many species is poisonous; it causes itching, slow-healing ulcers, and inflammation of the mucosa of the eyes, lips, and nose. Agricultural animals are seriously harmed by the poisonous juice. Caper spurge (E. lathyris), which is found as an import in the Caucasus, contains an oil in its seeds. The milky juice of many tropical and subtropical species is used by the perfume industry and other industries. Some species are cultivated as house plants and as ornamentals in greenhouses and gardens.
REFERENCESProkhanov, la. I. “Rod Molochai—Euphorbia L.” In Flora SSSR, vol. 14. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Atlas lekarstvennykh rastenii SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962.
T. V. EGOROVA