Euphorbia mauritanica

The name of this species is rather ironic. The plants were introduced into cultivation in Europe in the beginning of the 18th century or maybe even before, and believed to have come from “Mauritania”, a name used at that time for a large portion of northwestern Africa. We now know they do nor occur in that area at all.
On the contrary, the species is widespread in southern Africa, where it is found on flats and stony slopes, sometimes also on coastal dunes. It is a much-branched shrub up to 2 m tall with  short-lived leaves. The flowers appear from May to November.
As it is a variable species, a number  of varieties have been described in the past, but these are now regarded as ecotypes and their names  therefore as synonyms.

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Euphorbia esculenta (1)

Of the about 30 species of the so-called medusoid group of Euphorbias, this is one of the biggest, sometimes reaching a metre or even more in diameter (including the branches).
It is very common over a large area stretching from the dry sandy plains east of Addo, northwards as far as Graaff Reinet and southwestwards towards the Baviaanskloof and the eastern border of the Little Karoo.
When the substrate is very hard, the main body is pushed above ground.
The name esculenta means “edible”, because the plants can be used as fodder in times of drought.
The flowers with their white woolly bracteoles give off a pleasantly sweet scent.

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Euphorbia mammillaris

The original E. mammillaris was known to occur from the Riversdale district in the west to the Oudtshoorn area in the east. The plants growing there look like the ones in the first 4 pictures. By the way, the 4th one was taken last Sunday at the Vrolykheid Nature Reserve between Robertson and McGregor, which is much further to the west.
Pictures 5 and 6 show plants from near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. They represent what used to be called E. fimbriata, with rather narrower and more sinuous stems. This habit is an adaptation to the growing conditions there: a dense cover of bush (#5) or grass (#6) as opposed to the open habitats in the west.

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