Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wild Poinsettia, Fire-on-the-Mountain

Euphorbia cyathophora is a summer blooming native annual that has disappeared for the winter in my garden. Why, you may be asking, am I sharing this plant right now when it's no longer in bloom! Call it a counter balance to the ubiquitous Christmas poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, seen at every grocery store with the container wrapped in a garish foil and the petals too often sprinkled with glitter!

Believe me when I say that if Fire-on-the Mountain were blooming right now, I would pot it up and use it for my holiday decorations.

I am serious! It's a lovely over looked native!
I love this simple plant
I first met Wild Poinsettia when I was a kid living in Tampa Fl. It was growing in a weedy patch of uncultivated sandy soil on the side of our house, the red marked leaves caught my attention and must have made a lasting impression, because that memory came bubbling to the surface when I saw it growing in my friend Doris' garden a dozen years ago. She loves it, too, and generously shared seedlings with me. It's never made a grand statement like other plants, just pops up here and there surprising me every time when I see the fire red petals (bracts).

It's the innermost parts of each bract that turn a vibrant red from midsummer to frost. That's how it got its many names~dwarf poinsettia, fire on the mountain, fire-on-the-mountain, Mexican fire plant, painted leaf, painted poinsettia, painted spurge, painted-leaf, painted-leaf spurge, poinsettia, summer poinsettia, wild poinsettia. To me it's either Fire on the Mountain or Wild Poinsettia!

If you garden for wildlife, you'll love that small insects, butterflies and sphinx moths are attracted to the yellow pollen found in the clusters of small flowers (known as 'cyanthia') and that the Sphinx moths forage on the foliage!

source: Paul Rebmann UTK Herbarium*
I think you'll like them, too and maybe wish like I have been, that they were the Christmas poinsettia!


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. It's a lovely looking native indeed! Much prefer that over pulcherrima

  2. A wonderful choice for the season. I like this one a lot also and it grows native in my area. I'd love to bring it into my garden if I can find it. Meanwhile I'm watching for seeds on some I spotted recently in a garden where I volunteer.

  3. I've never heard of this before, but now I want it bad. I love that subtle touch of red in your first photo, so much better than the overblown Pointsettia.

  4. Oh Gail what a fabulous plant I wish grew here....I can see why you love it so....

  5. That's a beauty. I wonder how it would fare in a pot indoors? I see that it's native here in Wisconsin, too, but wouldn't it be fun to have an indoor plant or two to display during the holidays?

  6. I didn't know there was such a thing. Pretty.

  7. So pretty and I would love to have this native but it is not easy to find around here. I thought I had it growing but it turned out to be a weedy look-alike euphorbia. Similar leaves, same seed heads but no red. And it is prolific.

  8. Oh wow, I've never seen this before. Very cute!!

  9. I found a source for a variegated version of this plant called 'Yokoi's White' and we used it in a display at work this past summer, and it did very well. We brought several of the plants into the greenhouse for the winter in hopes we can use it again next year.

  10. I had one come up in a flower pot in my yard I had no ideal what it was until today when my told me what it was!!!


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson