Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: African Milk Tree
Euphorbia trigona

Family: Euphorbiaceae (yoo-for-bee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Euphorbia (yoo-FOR-bee-uh) (Info)
Species: trigona (try-GOH-nuh) (Info)

28 members have or want this plant for trade.

Cactus and Succulents

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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15 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Nate1the1great1 On Feb 3, 2015, Nate1the1great1 from Penrose, CO wrote:

I got a 8 inch cutting a year ago and it has grown into a monter towering over 2 feet with 7 arms i have mine in a large sized pot and just stopped growing this week i LOVE this (cactus)

Positive lefty58 On Jun 29, 2014, lefty58 from Rockwall, TX wrote:

A great plant and low maintenance as indicated on this forum. My question is when should you re-pot? I am concerned about my pot becoming too small as it grows taller.

Positive WillyB23 On Feb 27, 2014, WillyB23 from Haskell, AR wrote:

This is a wonderful and hardy plant. I got two broken arms from a friend about two years ago that were 6 or so inches tall. Now they are around two feet in regular sun with a weekly splash of water. Don't taste the sap btw. Its bitter and then things are not good!! I grow tabasco and habanero peppers in Arkansas but this stuff will numb your nose after it sets you on fire. Three hours later I could smell again. Not a pleasant experience. And that was just a drop on my finger. It will grow from a slice off the side or an arm stuck in a pot. My friends was her Aunts and 7 ft tall. It was about 30 or so years old but HUGE at the main stem. It was in a 30" outdoor pot and came in in the winter. Yeah that was fun. Pokey suckers

Neutral MisterETrigona On Jan 4, 2014, MisterETrigona from Angier, NC wrote:

Euphorbia trigona ... poisonous, not in a strict sense of the word. Potentially deadly irritant ... YES.

The white sap bleeds from any cuts on the plant, and I "accidentally" licked my finger and ingested about 1 drop. In ten minutes my throat was sore, like a bad case of streptococcus, then my tongue dried out and my lips burned. I felt relief when drinking cool water. That lasted about three hours, but the next day the skin on my whole body felt sensitive. I had decided which hospital to go to, and probably should have, but I did not.

Now I have a Skull And Crossbones symbol posted on my 8-foot E. trigona.

Positive mrdiesel On Apr 17, 2013, mrdiesel from Torrington, CT wrote:

two years ago my stepdaughter gave me an 8" cutting of her "cactus".. which turned out to be E.Trigona. I grow a variety of plants and didn't have this one. I potted it in regular potting soil/perlite mix, watered it and put it in by the French doors to our deck. gets plenty of light but not direct. in about three weeks I started to see new green growth at the top of the cutting. I would turn the plant every week so that it didn't develop a lean. I water it once a week in the summer and about every three weeks to a month in the fall and winter. right now the plant is about three an a half feet tall has 6 vertical arms growing off the main stalk. when I was given this plant as a cutting, i didn't wait a couple days for the cutting to callous over, I just planted and watered. it's a great easy to grow plant that fits very well with my cleisto cactus, opuntia fragilis cactus, Hawaiian plumeria, rubber tree, jade, hoya, lucky bamboo, Uinta basin cactus , and avocado tree. thank you for this opportunity to share. Pop Diesel

Positive atten On Aug 28, 2012, atten from Salem, MO wrote:

I've had this plant about 25 years. It was about 7 inches tall when I got it. It's now about about six foot tall and has outgrown my house! I've always put it outside in summer but it's gotten too heavy for my husband & I (senior citizens) to move so I've started new plants for me and friends and family, but I hate to kill it so would like to find a new home for it.

Positive Hacienda1712 On Jun 8, 2012, Hacienda1712 from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

I was told sunlight would burn this plant, it's been kept indoors with almost no sun for 6 years now and looks great, grown up from 4' to 6' now. Some branches have spread and hit the floor, I just tied them up together for a while and they're now growing straight up again.
I'll try giving it some more sun, maybe break off a leg and plant outdoors to see what happens...

Positive azhusker On Sep 5, 2011, azhusker from Tucson, AZ wrote:

My Euphobia trigona is about six feet tall and all of a sudden is bent over, almost touching the floor. What is the cause? under watering? over watering? to small a pot? I have had this plant for about 10 years.

Positive Parrott1 On Jul 10, 2011, Parrott1 from Lake in the Hills, IL wrote:

I have had my Euphorbia trigona since 1981. I received it when I was in college. Over the last 6 months the plant and all its arms are turning from green to almost like wood. Can anyone tell me what is going on? I have not seen any new growth this year.

Positive calf On Mar 24, 2011, calf from Leander, TX wrote:

Friends in Washington State broke off a piece of the AMT growing in their house for me to bring to Texas. The initial piece was about six inches tall. Once back in Texas, I stuck it in good potting soil and essentially forgot about it except for when I watered it every other week.

Four years later, it is approaching eight feet tall, has numerous side shoots and resembles a Saquaro cactus!

I have repotted it several times (wrap it in a towel unless you want to donate blood because it is sharp!). It doesn't appear to be bothered by the process - just keeps getting bigger!

Last spring, I decided to try it outside - east side of the house under the porch roof. In the heat of a Texas summer, it was watered every day. It grew like a weed and got more arms. I bring it in and put it under plant lights for winter. At that point, it appears to go dormant, and I cut way back on watering.

If yours becomes too large, cut off one of its arms and start another plant.

This is such a cool plant!

Positive Alexwtf_93 On Dec 5, 2010, Alexwtf_93 from Susanville, CA wrote:

this is one of my very favorite houseplants, it grows very quickly indoors, its usually under flourescent lights, or filtered morning sunlight, for the 3 years i've had it its added about 2 feet to its height, its rather large so i water it a couple times a week and feed it once in a while, just be careful while moving it as it can be a fragile plant and break easily.. but will grow back fast

Positive Catamarca On Mar 21, 2010, Catamarca from El Paso, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant cannot take direct El Paso desert sun. My specimen, now about two years old, has numerous white spots along the stems as evidence! I keep it out of direct light now and the new growth is fine.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Feb 22, 2007, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Euphorbia trigona is not hardy; temperatures even two or three degrees below freezing will kill it. Still, the red plant they show in a normal cool bay area winter is striking. Fast growing small Euphorbia and easy care. Protect from slugs and freezing temps.

Positive cactuskat On Jan 31, 2007, cactuskat from Glendale, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have had my plant for about 15 years and just found out the name of it, thanks to Dave's Garden. My plant is really small for its age. I have it in potting soil and a medium size pot,but I think it is time to transplant it.

Neutral smiln32 On Nov 30, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Upright branching habit to 1.8 meters. Can be pruned. Used for fences in tropical countries. Makes a great container plant.

Positive Happenstance On Nov 12, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

Like all Euphorbia HANDLE WITH CARE, the latex/sap is dangerous and can cause skin rash, itching and general discomfort.

Positive Monocromatico On Jul 11, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Its not a Cactus (from the Cactaceae family). However, ecologically, it occupies the same eco-systems as cacti, since there are no cacti in Africa.

I have a purple variety of this plant. It's a tough one. You don't need to water it at all, just let the rain do its job. As for sun exposure, don't worry too much about it either; my plant receives 4 hours of sunlight per day, and I've seen larger plants under full sun. You better look for aphids that may infest this species sometimes.

The flowers are insignificant, according to foreign descriptions, since there are no registries about it blooming here in Brazil, although it's very well adapted to the climate.

The cactus-like branches (with tiny spines and small leaves on the tip) start from the sides and get erect, growing upwards, up to 2.5 m, giving the plant a very interesting look. It has a milky sap that may be poisonous and cause skin irritation.

It can be propagated from stem cuttings, like most columnar cacti. I got mine from a cut stem 7 years ago, and it looks beautiful.

Neutral Thaumaturgist On Jul 11, 2003, Thaumaturgist from Rockledge, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

A cactus from tropical western Africa, commonly known as the African Milk Tree. Mine was store-bought at 6" tall; one year later, it is 3 ft tall and 2 ft wide.

Strictly adhering to zero/low maintenance policy, it is left in the outdoors - no pampering at all.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Tucson, Arizona
Benton, Arkansas
Castro Valley, California
Clayton, California
Encino, California
Hayward, California
Los Angeles, California
Pleasant Hill, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California
Susanville, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Penrose, Colorado
Melbourne Beach, Florida
Milton, Florida
Rockledge, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Forsyth, Georgia
Lake In The Hills, Illinois
Kenner, Louisiana
Pikesville, Maryland
Salem, Missouri
Verona, Missouri
Zanesville, Ohio
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Clarksville, Tennessee
Germantown, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
Desoto, Texas
Houston, Texas
Leander, Texas
Rowlett, Texas
Bellevue, Washington
Seattle, Washington

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