Orchid Crown of Thorns
Botanical name: Euphorbia milii splendens
Family: Euphorbiaceae (castor family)
Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii is a succulent plant growing 5 to 6 feet tall. The woody stems are greyish brown, branched and with many prominent grey spines.
The thick fleshy leaves are arranged in spiral and they are bright green to greyish green, oval shaped with a smooth edge. The inflorescence is composed of a specialized structure called a Cyathium comprising a cup-like involucre, within which there is a single much reduced female flower surrounded by three male flowers reduced to single stamens. The Cyathia are borne in clusters (cymes) and each Cyanthium has two colorful bracts. Plants are blooming year round, but are at their best in dry and sunny locations.
The largest of the Crown of Thorns with 1″ orchid red blooms and large stiff canes creating a somewhat more upright mature specimen. E. milii, a native to Madagascar, is a succulent, with thick, fleshy stems adapted for water storage. The stems are 5-7 sided, greyish-brown, branched & up to 2-3′ in height, with many prominent, grey 1″ spines. The leaves tend to be obovate (wider near the tip), up to 1½ long, but much larger (to 6″) in the Thai hybrids. They are spirally arranged, have smooth margins, & vary from bright green to grey-green. Foliage is present only on new growth. E. milii var splendens is similar, but grows to 5-6′.
Native to Madagascar, the crown of thorns is now found all over the world as a widely grown ornamental species. Originating mainly in south and central Madagascar, most varieties of the crown of thorns were described from collected specimens, and the original locations were not always properly recorded. As such, the wild locations of some crown of thorns varieties are no longer known.
The species name commemorates Baron Milius, once Governor of Réunion, who introduced the species to France in 1821.It is suspected that the species was introduced to the Middle East in ancient times, and legend associates it with the crown of thorns worn by Christ.It is also found in Kerala, India. There is a tale stating that there were Jews living in Kerala and they brought the Christ thorn plant from Israel to India.