AZ Arboretums

Euphorbia antisyphilitica

CandelillaCommon: Candelilla
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Origin/Range: Chihuahuan desert, USA (west Texas), Mexico (Durango, Chihuahua and Coahuila)
Light: Full sun
Minimum Avg. Temperature: 50°F (10°C). Takes some frost.

Water:  Little water when established

Evergreen shrub, up to 3 feet tall (90 cm); mostly leafless stems, 0.25 to 0.5 inches (6-12 mm).

Clusters of thin, upright, pencil-like stems. Flowers are small, pinkish in the center and becoming cream farther out. Flowers occur in clusters on the stems. Stems are covered with a high quality wax--the plants have been greatly overharvested in Mexico for this wax. Little water, full sun. Frost sensitive. Sap may be irritating.

The common name means "little candle", referring to the appearance of the stems; the scientific name comes from the folk lore that the plant is effective for treatment of venereal disease.

The stems of Candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) are coated with a wax that slows evaporation of precious water. Candelilla, which means little candle, has long spawned a cottage industry. Plants are boiled in large vats in order to extract and sell the high quality wax. Warning: The candelilla sap is irritating.