Saturday, August 10, 2013


August in Kansas, Snow-on-the-mountain is in full bloom in the Flint Hills, taking refuge in the limestone rocks and dotting the deep grass along Kansas roadsides.

Snow-on-the-mountain, Greenwood Co., Ks.

This plant is related to the poinsettia and, when seen in profusion from a distance, its variegated leaves and white flowers give the appearance of snow on the mountain.  

Beware, snow-on-the-mountain exudes a milky sap that causes skin irritation similar to poison ivy. Cattle avoid snow-on-the-mountain because of its bitter taste.

The plant is a member of the spurge family. The common name "spurge" comes from the Middle English and Old French espurge, meaning"to purge", due to the use of the sap as a purgative. The plant and its medicinal properties was known in Roman times as early as Caesar Augustus. The botanical name Euphorbia derives from Euphorbus, a Greek physician, who used a species of the plant as a laxative.

The plant grows 12-40 inches in height. A single stem may branch into three flowering heads. The variegated bracts next to the flowers serve the function of attracting bees and other pollinators.

Snow-on-the-mountain flower

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