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Canary Spurge

Euphorbia mellifera

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Gardens, parks, seaside, wasteland.

Yellow, no petals
The flowers of Canary Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera) are unique in structure and appearance. Each flower cluster, known as a cyathium, consists of multiple small, unisexual flowers enclosed within a cup-like involucre of petal-like bracts. These bracts are typically yellow-green in color, forming a striking contrast against the dark green foliage of the plant. The flowers themselves are tiny and lack traditional petals; instead, they are composed of reproductive parts surrounded by these bract-like structures. Despite their small size, the clusters of cyathia create a visually impactful display during their blooming period in late spring to early summer, enhanced by a subtle, sweet fragrance reminiscent of honey.
The fruit of Canary Spurge is a three-lobed capsule that develops after flowering. These capsules are initially green and eventually turn brown as they mature. Each capsule contains small, rounded seeds that are expelled explosively when the capsule splits open, aiding in seed dispersal. The seeds are dark brown to black in color and are relatively small compared to the size of the plant. After the flowering season, the capsules persist on the plant, adding to its ornamental interest until they eventually release their seeds to propagate new plants.
The leaves of Canary Spurge are lance-shaped and glossy green, with a smooth texture. They are arranged alternately along the sturdy, woody stems of the plant. Each leaf is typically around 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) long and tapers to a pointed tip. The margins of the leaves are entire (smooth and without teeth), contributing to the plant's sleek and tidy appearance. These leaves remain evergreen throughout the year, providing a consistent backdrop for the plant's seasonal flowers and adding to its year-round ornamental value in gardens and landscapes.
The fragrance of Canary Spurge is often described as honey-like or sweet. When the plant blooms in late spring to early summer, the small yellow-green flowers emit a subtle yet pleasant fragrance that resembles the scent of honey. This fragrance, combined with the visual appeal of the flowers and the plant's overall architectural presence, adds to its charm as an ornamental species in gardens and landscapes. However, despite its sweet scent, it's important to handle the plant with caution due to its toxic sap and potential for skin irritation.
Other Names:
Canary Island Spurge, Honey Spurge, Honey-scented Spurge.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information

Canary Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera) is a robust evergreen shrub originating from the Canary Islands, known for its architectural form and striking presence in gardens across the UK. Growing up to 2 meters tall, it features sturdy, woody stems adorned with lance-shaped, glossy green leaves. From late spring to early summer, it produces clusters of small, yellow-green flowers surrounded by showy, petal-like bracts that emit a sweet, honey-like fragrance. Thriving in coastal environments and Mediterranean-style gardens, Canary Spurge adds year-round interest with its vibrant foliage and seasonal blooms, making it a popular choice for ornamental landscaping.

Discovering the Allure of Canary Spurge: A Garden Gem

In the enchanting world of garden flora, Canary Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera) stands out as a captivating and distinctive shrub that effortlessly blends ornamental beauty with rugged resilience. Originating from the sunny Canary Islands, this evergreen perennial has found its way into gardens across the United Kingdom, where its striking features and unique characteristics have earned it a dedicated following among gardening enthusiasts and landscape designers alike.

Origins and Appearance

Canary Spurge, scientifically known as Euphorbia mellifera, derives its name from its place of origin—the Canary Islands. These rugged volcanic islands, bathed in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, provide the perfect natural habitat for this resilient shrub. In gardens, Canary Spurge typically grows to a height of 1.5 to 2 meters (5 to 6.5 feet), forming a dense and bushy structure adorned with glossy, lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are a deep green color, which contrasts beautifully with the clusters of flowers that appear in late spring and early summer.

Flowers and Fragrance

One of the most enchanting features of Canary Spurge is its flowers. Unlike traditional flowers with distinct petals, Canary Spurge bears small, yellow-green flowers clustered in structures called cyathia. Each cluster is surrounded by showy bracts that resemble petals, creating a visually striking display. What adds to its allure is the fragrance—a delicate, honey-like scent that wafts through the garden when in bloom. This subtle fragrance not only attracts pollinators but also adds an element of sensory delight to any outdoor space where Canary Spurge is planted.

Habitat and Cultivation

In the United Kingdom, Canary Spurge thrives in a variety of settings, from coastal gardens to urban parks and Mediterranean-style landscapes. It prefers well-drained soil and thrives in full sun to partial shade, making it adaptable to different garden conditions. Its ability to withstand coastal winds and its tolerance for drought once established further enhance its appeal for gardeners looking to add structure and year-round interest to their outdoor spaces.

Seasonal Interest and Maintenance

Throughout the year, Canary Spurge remains an evergreen presence in the garden, providing structure and color even during the colder months. In late spring, the plant bursts into bloom, covering itself with clusters of flowers that last well into early summer. After flowering, the plant develops intriguing three-lobed capsules that eventually mature and split open, dispersing small seeds to propagate new plants.

Considerations and Care

While Canary Spurge is a resilient and visually appealing addition to gardens, it is important to handle it with care due to its toxic sap. Like many plants in the Euphorbia genus, it produces a milky sap that can cause skin irritation and is toxic if ingested. Gardeners should wear gloves when handling the plant and take care to prevent accidental contact with the sap, especially when pruning or handling cuttings.

Design and Aesthetic Uses

From a design perspective, Canary Spurge offers versatility and aesthetic appeal. Its upright growth habit and glossy foliage make it an excellent choice for creating focal points in borders or mixed plantings. It contrasts beautifully with softer textures and adds structure to perennial beds. In coastal gardens, its tolerance for salty air and wind further enhances its suitability, while in urban settings, it brings a touch of Mediterranean charm.


Canary Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera) is more than just a garden plant; it is a testament to the beauty and resilience of nature. With its glossy green leaves, clusters of fragrant flowers, and year-round appeal, this shrub continues to captivate gardeners and landscapers alike. Whether planted as a solitary specimen, used to create a hedge, or incorporated into mixed plantings, Canary Spurge brings a touch of elegance and sensory delight to any garden. However, its toxic sap warrants caution, reminding us to appreciate its beauty from a respectful distance. Embrace the allure of Canary Spurge and let its timeless charm transform your garden into a sanctuary of natural beauty and sensory pleasure.

Here are 30 facts about Canary Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera):

  1. Origin: Native to the Canary Islands, hence its common name.

  2. Scientific Name: Euphorbia mellifera, derived from Latin, meaning "honey-bearing," referring to its fragrant flowers.

  3. Family: Belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family, which includes diverse plant species like poinsettias and castor beans.

  4. Size: Typically grows to a height of 1.5 to 2 meters (5 to 6.5 feet) tall.

  5. Foliage: Glossy, lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately along woody stems.

  6. Flowers: Small, yellow-green flowers grouped in clusters called cyathia, surrounded by petal-like bracts.

  7. Fragrance: Emit a subtle, honey-like fragrance during the flowering season.

  8. Blooming Period: Flowers from late spring to early summer, attracting pollinators like bees.

  9. Habitat: Thrives in coastal gardens, Mediterranean-style landscapes, and well-drained soil.

  10. Climate: Prefers full sun to partial shade and is tolerant of coastal winds and salty air.

  11. Evergreen: Retains its glossy green foliage year-round, providing structure and color in the garden.

  12. Toxicity: Produces a milky sap that can cause skin irritation and is toxic if ingested.

  13. Propagation: Propagated from seeds or cuttings, with seeds dispersed from mature capsules.

  14. Cultural Uses: Often cultivated as an ornamental shrub for its attractive foliage and seasonal flowers.

  15. Wildlife: Provides habitat and food for pollinators and beneficial insects.

  16. Landscape Design: Used to create focal points, hedges, or as part of mixed plantings in gardens.

  17. Drought Tolerance: Once established, exhibits good tolerance to drought conditions.

  18. Maintenance: Pruning after flowering helps maintain shape and promotes healthy growth.

  19. Soil Preference: Thrives in well-drained, fertile soil but can adapt to various soil types.

  20. Growth Rate: Moderately fast-growing when provided with optimal growing conditions.

  21. Pest Resistance: Generally resistant to common garden pests and diseases.

  22. Historical Significance: Has been cultivated in gardens for ornamental purposes since the Victorian era.

  23. Medicinal Uses: Historically used in folk medicine, although caution is advised due to its toxicity.

  24. Cultural Significance: Plays a role in traditional gardens of the Canary Islands and Mediterranean regions.

  25. Symbolism: Represents resilience and beauty in challenging environments, reflecting its natural habitat.

  26. Garden Companions: Complements a wide range of garden plants, including Mediterranean herbs and flowering perennials.

  27. Propagation Challenges: Can be challenging to propagate from seed due to dormancy requirements.

  28. Garden Architecture: Adds vertical interest and architectural structure to garden landscapes.

  29. Regional Adaptations: Varieties and cultivars exist with adaptations to different climates and growing conditions.

  30. Conservation: Conservation efforts focus on preserving its natural habitats and genetic diversity in cultivation.

Canary Spurge (Euphorbia mellifera) embodies a blend of beauty, resilience, and ecological importance, making it a cherished addition to gardens and landscapes worldwide.


Canary Spurge filmed at these locations:
  • Newlyn, Cornwall: 9th of June 2023
  • Mousehole, Cornwall: 13th June 2024

Music credits
Stopping By the Inn by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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