The spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) is a family of dicot plants. They are mostly herbaceous plants, but in the tropics they can also be shrubs, trees and lianas. The family is found on all continents from temperate to tropical regions.
Most varieties have milky sap that flows immediately if the plant is damaged. The sap is usually highly to deadly poisonous and serves as a wound cover and protection against damage to the plant. Representatives of this family in arid regions have undergone a similar development to the cactus family: they are succulent (store water) and have thorns.
The family has a number of economically important varieties: the roots of the cassava (Manihot esculenta) provide cassava flour, and rubber is tapped from the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). The castor bean (Ricinus communis) provides castor oil and the highly toxic ricin. Many species are used as ornamental plants, for example the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima).
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