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crown of thorns

The crown of thorns, also called Christ thorn (Euphorbia splendens or E. milii), Crown of thorns (Euphorbia splendens) is a thorny vinelike plant of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) The sprawling, branching, vinelike stems attain lengths of more than two metres (seven feet).

 

The common names allude to the legend that the crown of thorns worn by Christ at the time of his crucifixion was made from stems of this plant. Interestingly, the stems of this plant are pliable and can be intertwined into a circle. There exists substantial evidence that the species, native to Madagascar, had been brought to the Middle East before the time of Christ.

 

Most members of the Spurge family, for example the Crown of Thorns, exude a sticky white sap (latex) from any cut surface. The latex is found in special branching tubes called latex tubes.

 

The latex may produce a severe dermatitis on susceptible individuals, much like poison ivy. Generally poisonous if ingested in large amounts, the latex undoubtedly contributes to the protection of the plants from herbivores (plant consuming organisms). The latex of some species has been used for arrow poisons and to stupefy fish for capture. Euphorbias are not planted near stocked pools since the exudate from broken roots can be fatal to fish. Despite its poisonous properties, in the past the latex had been used for medicinal purposes. The common name for the family, Spurge, comes from the same root as purge or expurgate, alluding to its properties if taken internally.

 

The Chinese use it as a cure for cancer, and some Brazilians believe that it can cure warts.

 

Euphorbia milii can curb the spread of schistosomiasis, a disease of the liver. Its latex has ingredients that can kill snails of the genera Indoplanorbis and Biomphalaria, which are vectors (alternate hosts) of the flatworms which cause this disease.

 

Euphorbia milii flowers, when dried and processed as powder, inhibit the growth of Aspergillus.

   

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Taken on February 2, 2012