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Common Name: Thymeleaf Sandmat
Euphorbia serpyllifolia is an annual plant that can grow up to 0.25 metres tall.
It has edible and medicinal uses.
The sap contains a latex which is toxic on ingestion and highly irritant externally, causing photosensitive skin reactions and severe inflammation, especially on contact with eyes or open cuts. The toxicity can remain high even in dried plant material[
]. Prolonged and regular contact with the sap is inadvisable because of its carcinogenic nature[
N. America - British Columbia to Michigan and Wisconsin, south to California, Texas and Mexico.
Dry sandy or alluvial soils[
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain. Other members of the genus prefer a light well-drained moderately rich loam in an open position[
]. Succeeds in dry soils[
Hybridizes with other members of this genus[
]. The ripe seed is released explosively from the seed capsules[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[
This genus has been singled out as a potential source of latex (for making rubber) for the temperate zone, although no individual species has been singled out[
Root - cooked. They are chewed (by women!) and then mixed with corn meal to sweeten it[
]. One report says that the women would keep the root in their mouths for two days, only taking it out when taking refreshments or sleeping. At the end of that time as much cornmeal as possible was placed in the mouth and held there, without chewing, until the build-up of saliva forced ejection of the mass[
]. (Saliva contains certain enzymes that convert starches to sugars and so it will sweeten corn meal on its own[
].) The chewed root acts like a yeast preparation and has been used in making cakes[
]. The root can be dried for later use[
The root has been fermented to make an intoxicating drink[
The leaves are used for chewing[
]. They have a pleasant taste[
All these uses should be viewed with some caution, see the notes above on toxicity.
Thymeleaf sandmat was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[
]. It is not normally used in modern herbalism and any use of this plant should be done with great care because of its potentially toxic nature[
A decoction of the plant has been used to encourage milk flow in nursing mothers and to treat diarrhoea, stomach aches[
]. Externally, the decoction has been used as a wash on running sores and poison ivy rash[
]. A poultice of the plant has been applied to rattlesnake bites - this must be done immediately after being bitten if it is to be effective[
A poultice made from the chewed plant has been applied to cuts to stop the bleeding[
]. The heated poultice has been used to treat toothache[
The dried leaves have been rubbed into scratches on the abdomen to treat dysentery and bloating in children[
The sap has been used to treat warts[
]. The sap needs to be applied at least once a day and will take some time to be effective.
Seed - sow spring in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 20°c.