New Guide, New Project, and a Potential Project

Today has been an exciting day for me concerning Euphorbia on iNaturalist.

First, I have added a new project for the Euphorbias of the United States. I actually started working on it a while ago but didn't start adding observations just recently (after my Thesis Defense). Anyone who is interested in participating is more than welcome. And, if you post something outside of sect. Anisophyllum, there's a much greater chance that I'll actually ID it instead of skip past looking for Chamaesyces. Here is the link:

Second, I put a new guide out for Texans wanting to ID their weedy species of Euphorbia sect. Anisophyllum (i.e., Chamaesyce). This has been in the works for a while now and I finally decided to finish it. Here's the link:

Lastly, there may be a project for the Euphorbias in Mexico soon. Stay tuned!

Posted on October 10, 2016 05:21 AM by nathantaylor nathantaylor


GREAT stuff, Nathan -- love it!

Is your goal to observe all the species of Euphorbia in TX...then in the US... then the world?!? :)

Posted by sambiology over 7 years ago

Maybe. :) Lots of taxonomic fun to be had in Euphorbia.

Posted by nathantaylor over 7 years ago

What is it that interests/fascinates you most about Ephorbia?

Posted by sherylsr over 7 years ago

Ooh, that's a hard question. Firstly, I have to specify section Anisophyllum (the group that used to be Chamaesyce) because I'm not really all that interested in the Poinsettias or the cactus-like succulents in Africa. Not to say that the other groups aren't interesting; they just don't hold my attention in the same way that sect. Anisophyllum does.

Probably the most obvious answer is that they are hard for other people to identify. There is also the fact that they are small but just large enough for me to ID without using a microscope, but really, there are several other groups that are like that and I like most of them. One scientifically appealing thing that separates this group from others is that they are exceedingly diverse in the region that I live and grew up in (over 40 species in Texas and most of those are in the Trans-Pecos, where I went to school). I also happen to really like plants with opposite leaves. Don't ask me why, but I find myself drawn to opposite leaves! But I think there is more to it than that.

Perhaps one of the things that I like most about this group is that they are underappreciated. While the vast majority people ooh and aah at the pretty poinsettias, roses, or other showy ornamentals, they look at the members of the group that I study and think "weed." It doesn't really anger me that they think this; it just makes me think that there is opportunity to entice someone to appreciate nature in a way that they normally wouldn't. If I can get them to see beauty in their weeds, I have accomplished my mission. The weedy species are those that are always with us but are looked at with disdain despite many of them being quite beautiful. And the reason that our society hates them is because they are too good at surviving. For instance, the common dandelion will always be special to me because it is the epitome of a lawn weed (I also don't like lawns, but that's a discussion for another day). But past the label of weed, you have a showy plant that is considered the most nutritious vegetable in the world, has medicinal applications, has been used as a coffee substitute, and was intentionally brought to the US with the original Europeans who colonized the east coast. Furthermore, it is a humble invasive that doesn't take over but simply survives wherever it ends up, which cannot be said for others like salt cedar or tumbleweed.

Although Euphorbia sect. Anisophyllum isn't as easy to stand behind when trying to explain the beauty of weeds to the average land owner, I find them fascinating and beautiful. In most lawns in the southern High Plains and Trans-Pecos, I frequently find 4 or more species growing side by side. There are very few groups that I can say that about. There are few places in the southern states that don't have a species of Euphorbia sect. Anisophyllum nearby. Depending on where you live, it might be a different species than the weed on the other side of the country. There are so many reasons why I like this group and if no one else does, that's perfectly fine; there are plenty of other plants that I can use to try to lure you into seeing the beauty in everyday nature. But, these plants appeal to me. In a way, it almost feels personal because I really don't much care what anyone else thinks about them, and I don't feel like I have to have anyone else think there interesting (which can make coming up with an introduction to a presentation difficult). In regard to your question, probably the simplest answer I can give is that the group just clicked for me.

Posted by nathantaylor over 7 years ago

Thank you for sharing! I was truly curious to know. So I appreciate your time in answering back. My passion is spiders, which are also VERY misunderstood and under appreciated. So I get what you're saying.

In the past, I've been guilty of calling and categorizing some plants simply "weeds." Until I learned that they had REAL NAMES. I wrote an essay on the topic and my change of heart:

Since childhood, I've always loved nature but do even more so since starting my blog (Window on a Texas Wildscape) in 2008 and then becoming a Texas Master Naturalist. I have learned SO MUCH by just observing natural life in our yard and also researching online and in books. Nature is AWESOME.

Naturally, we have a variety Euphorbias in our yard (as you say, they grow everywhere). Alas, I've pulled them. But I shall do better now at learning more about them as individual species, thanks to you. Thank you for your guide!

Onward as we spread the Good Word about Euphorbias and spiders! :-)

Posted by sherylsr over 7 years ago

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