Euphorbia survive long periods of drought by
storing water in their leafless
Related object in the collection
Arrow heads, poisoned with euphorbia, and arrow straightener
On display in room 25
The plants contain a milky sap that can be very harmful to people and animals. However if correctly applied it can be used medicinally, and is traditionally employed by the Venda and Sotho people as a treatment for cancer.
When hunting large animals, the San people mixed euphorbia sap with extract from the Diamphidia beetle to poison their arrow tips.
Tree euphorbia © Richard Wilford, Stephen Ruddy, RBG Kew
Arrow heads, poisoned with euphorbia, and arrow straightener © Trustees of the British Museum