Telephus Spurge

views updated

Telephus Spurge

Euphorbia telephioides

ListedMay 8, 1992
FamilyEuphorbiaceae (Spurge)
DescriptionBushy perennial herb with a stout storage root.
HabitatGrassy vegetation on poorly drained sandy soils.
ThreatsHabitat degradation due to lack of fire and forestry practices.


The telephus spurge, Euphorbia telephioides, is a bushy-looking perennial herb with a stout storage root. The stems are numerous and up to 11.8 in (30 cm) tall. Both the stems and leaves are glabrous and possess latex. The largest leaves are 1.2-2.4 in (3-6 cm) long, elliptic or oblanceolate. The midrib and margins are usually maroon. The inflorescence is a cyathium. Flowering occurs from April through July.


This species is restricted to the Gulf coastal lowlands near the mouth of the Apalachicola River. This species inhabits grassy vegetation on poorly drained, infertile sandy soils. The wettest sites are grassy seepage bogs on gentle slopes at the edges of forested or shrubby wetlands. This species also inhabits grass-sedge bogs (savannahs), which are nearly treeless and shrubless but have a rich flora of grasses, sedges and herbs. Telephus spurge also occurs in scrubby oak vegetation near the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico.

Grassy savannahs and bogs are maintained by periodic fires. Lightning fires usually occur during the growing season. Fire during the growing season can stimulate and/or synchronize flowering in many species. The Apalachicola region has many endemic plant species, most of them are native to savannahs.

Savannahs have a greater economic value when they are planted with pine trees or converted to pasture. Prior to planting pines, the site is prepared by bedding and using other mechanical methods which are destructive to the vegetation.

This species is associated with the Eastern Gulf Coast Flatwoods. The Kuchler system places this species' habitat within the longleaf-slash pine ecosystem, restricted to flat and irregular southern Gulf coastal plains. Local relief is less than 300 ft (91.4 m). Much of this area is forested. The elevation ranges from sea level to 75 ft (22.8 m). This nearly level low coastal plain is crossed by many large streams, lakes and ponds. The average annual precipitation is 52.2-64.0 in (132.5-162.5 cm). The abundant rainfall and the many perennial streams are important sources of water.

This area supports pine forest vegetation. Chalky bluestem, indian grass, and several panicum species make up the understory. Palmetto, gallberry, and waxmyrtle are the dominant woody shrubs. Long-leaf and slash pine are the major trees. The fauna associated with longleaf-slash pine forest include the white-tailed deer, raccoon, the opossum, tree squirrels, rabbits, and numerous species of ground-dwelling rodents. The bobwhite and the wild turkey are the principal gallinaceous game birds. Resident and migratory nongame bird species are numerous, as are migratory waterfowl.


Telephus spurge is known from only 22 sites, all within 4 mi (6.4 km) of the Gulf of Mexico. This plant occurs in Bay, Gulf, and Franklin Counties from Panama City Beach to east of Apalachicola.


This species has fallen vulnerable to habitat degradation due to lack of prescribed fire and forestry practices. Development of improved cattle pastures has probably destroyed habitat of this species. The forest products industry has modified habitat by planting and harvesting slash pine and by the Forest Service planting of longleaf pine. Site preparation that precedes tree planting may destroy plants. Shading of this species by neighboring grasses and by pine trees after canopy closure most likely adversely affects the species.

Landowner liability for fire has discouraged prescribed burning of pineland in Florida which, also, may have adversely affected this species. The Forest Service conducts some prescribed burns during the growing season to reduce the incidence of Brown-spot infection of longleaf pine seedlings.

Five of 22 known sites are on highway right-of-ways posing a threat if the roads were ever widened.

Conservation and Recovery

Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or threatened pursuant to the Act include recognition, recovery actions, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition through listing encourages conservation measures by Federal, international, and private agencies, groups, and individuals.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345

Ecological Services Field Office
1612 June Avenue
Panama City, Florida 32405-3721
Telephone: (904) 769-0552
Fax: 904-763-2177


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 8 May 1992. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for Three Florida Plants." Federal Register 57 (90): 19813-19819.