Poison ivy, anyone?
Don’t be fooled by its pretty pink flowers and fruits -Voldemort, or He Who Shall Not Be Named - would have happily poisoned Harry Potter with a potion from the juice of the Euphorbia.
There are 2 000 different Euphorbia species in the world, but only a handful grow in South Africa, all with a deadly latex instead of sap. The Transvaal Candelabra tree, pictured here at Satara rest camp in Kruger Park, can grow up to 10m and is very common in Limpopo province. Most animals and birds avoid it - wisely so, because they could end up with severe burns on the eyes and lips.
Don’t worry if you’re in Kruger, there are warning notices alongside trees telling you not to touch the tree or fruits because if you come into contact with the latex it could cause blindness.
San/Bushmen use the poison to tip their arrows when hunting. Once the prey is wounded, it takes hours or even days for the poison to work its deadly task. Once the animal falls, the hunter moves in for the kill. But the poisoned part of the animal is always removed and burnt before the feast begins. Local tribes have also used the latex for DIY fishing. Throw the latex into a pool and wait for the dead fish to bob to the surface, then start peeling the potatoes.
Can anything eat the eurphorbias? Yes, black rhinos and nyala eat the bark with no harmful side effects, and doves and baboons eat the flowers and fruits.
But don’t you try it…