Is African Milk Tree a Cactus? ( Don’t Be a Fool !!)

Is African Milk Tree a Cactus?

The African milk tree is not a cactus. This plant, better known as the African milk tree or cathedral cactus, is not a cactus, although it looks like one. It’s also called by many other names—candelabra cactus, cathedral cactus, good luck cactus, and friendship cactus.

Though its common name suggests otherwise, the African milk tree is not a cactus, but rather a succulent plant. It is also frequently called the cathedral cactus or good-luck cactus, because of its many branches and its tall, candelabra-like shape.

The African milk tree is native to tropical Africa, and it has served for centuries as an important medicinal plant in West Africa. It was brought to America during the slave trade, where it has been used in traditional medicine and as an ornamental plant. Its thick, fleshy branches grow upward from a central trunk like candle flames rising from a candlewick.

“A succulent shrub with milky latex.”

General characteristics

Euphorbias are succulents with waxy skin. This particular species can grow up to 15 feet tall, forming a tree-like figure. The waxy skin found on the plant and leaves can cause irritation and should be avoided.

  • Common Name: African Milk Tree or Cathedral Cactus
  • Scientific name: Euphorbia trigona
  • Familia: Euphorbiaceae
  • Origin: South Africa.
  • Location: Exterior and interior.
  • Light: Lots of light but not direct.
  • Temperature: Warm, between 20ºC. and 28ºC.
  • Irrigation: Moderate. Check that the soil is dry between irrigation and irrigation.
  • Soil preference:  vert well-drained.
  • Sun Preference: Full sun.
  • Height: 11 – 15 feet
  • Width: 0 – 5 feet
  • Growth Rate: Fast Growing
  • Grow Season:
  • Flower Season:
  • Color: Red
  • Function: Screen
  • Spread: Non-spreading
  • Allergen: Non-allergenic
  • Invasive: Benign
  • Toxicity: Toxic
  • Hardy: Hardy
  • Water Use: Low water Use

In the world, there are a total of 2,000 accepted species of euphorbias, from herbaceous plants to large shrubs.

Some, in fact, are often confused with cacti since they have stipules from which spines come out. The care, therefore, is also different.

Varieties of Euphorbia Trigona or Milk Plant

The variety of shapes and sizes is very wide, hence they are used as ornamental plants.

Some of the varieties are:

  1. Euphorbia pulcherrima or Flor de Pascua,
  2. Euphorbia milii,
  3. Euphorbia characias ,
  4. Euphorbia hypericifolia (Diamond frost),
  5.  and Ricinus Communis (Castor). 

Description of the Euphorbia Trigona or Milk Plant

It is known as the milk plant due to the latex it releases when a cut is made. This is milky in color and is very irritating on contact with the skin. This feature is common to all euphorbias.

It can reach three meters in height, but in pots, it will be less. Its cactiform structure makes it look like a small cactus with arms or thorns.

The Euphorbia trigona or milk plant is an exceptionally decorative plant.

It has a cactiform structure and hardly develops flowers, although it does not need them either. In its growing season, it gives us beautiful and very decorative spatula-shaped leaves and, in winter, it tends to lose them in the coldest areas.

Its stem is green, but one of its best-known varieties, the Euphorbia trigona ‘rubra’ (it sale here), has a more reddish color.

Triangular Milkweed Care at Home 

Triangular Euphorbia or pyramidal milkweed (Euphorbia triangularis) is one of the most curious plants in my garden. You can recognize it by an unusual form of the root, which looks like a three-sided pyramid.

  • Triangular Euphorbia loves bright sunlight.  They require at least four hours of bright sunlight a day.
  • Therefore, windows on the south side are the ideal place for its location.
  •  East and west windows of the apartment are also a good option, as these plants require at least four hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day.
  •  If you keep these plants on a windowsill or porch from early spring until late autumn, do not leave them at temperatures below 13-15°C. If you leave them in colder temperatures for more than a day or two you will kill the plant.
  • These flowers are succulents, so they require a well-drained soil that allows moisture to pass through easily.
  • When you first get your new Trihedral Euphorbia, you’ll want to water it often until the soil is completely dry. This will help to acclimate it to its new environment. After a few weeks, you’ll want to start allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. This is a crucial factor in keeping your plant alive.
  • One feature: young plants need to be transplanted once a year, adults – every 2-3 years.

Is African Milk Cactus Poisonous?

The African milk cactus is a poisonous plant. This succulent shrub with milky latex produces a sweet, milky sap that contains cardenolides which are highly toxic; it may be fatal if eaten and also causes severe skin irritation.

In an effort to help keep pets safe, all parts of this plant are considered poisonous. If you suspect your pet has ingested part of this plant, call your veterinarian immediately.

Why Is It Called African Milk Tree?

This succulent contains a white, milky sap when cut or broken. The milky sap is called latex, and it can be used in a variety of ways by people who live in the desert. For example, if you cut the bark off this plant, you’ll find that the sap will form into beads that can be made into clothes or jewelry.

You can also drink latex for its medicinal properties. It’s been used to help people with skin problems like ringworm and rashes. The sap is also thought to have anti-cancer properties.

How Are Cacti and Euphorbia Similar?

It’s just like the way you know that a rose is like a sunflower, even though they’re different flowers from different families. It’s the same with cacti and euphorbia: they’re both kinds of succulents, meaning that their stems store water and can be thickened for support, so it’s not surprising that they have some similar adaptations.

 Both cacti and euphorbias are stem succulents, meaning that they’re leafless plants with thickened stems to store water in dry environments. 

There are other similarities too: neither cacti nor euphorbias produce their own chlorophyll.


Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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