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Euphorbia atoto G.Forst. 1786
pronounced: yoo-FOR-bee-uh uh-TOW-tow
(Euphorbiaceae — the spurge family)
synonym: Chamaesyce atoto (G.Forst.) Croizat 1936
pronounced: kam-ee-SY-kee uh-TOW-tow
common names: Miri-miri, Spurge
Euphorbia was named for Euphorbus, a physician in ancient Greece; the origin of atoto is not known for certain, but it is thought to be a vernacular name from the Society Islands. In the synonym, Chamaesyce is derived from the Greek χαμαι (chamai), on the ground, and συκον (sykon), a fig.
This herb is found in sandy places near the coast, in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, and some of the Pacific Islands. In Australia, it is found in Western Australia north of about Cape Range, in the Northern Territory and in Queensland, south to about Rockhampton. This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown). It was first described by Georg Forster in his book Florulae Insularum Australium Prodromus†(1786). Forster, as an assistant to his father, Johann, accompanied James Cook on his second voyage of discovery in 1772-1775.
This is a glabrous, diffuse and much-branched perennial, erect or sprawling, that grows from about 15 cm up to about 50 cm in height. The rootstock is woody, and can be up to 1 cm thick. The stems are terete, woody at the base, with swollen nodes; the internodes are large and conspicuous.
The leaves are opposite, broadly oblong and rather fleshy, entire, mostly rounded to obtuse, mucronate, glabrous, and glaucous; the base is obtuse, often strongly oblique with one side forming a lobe; the lamina is from about 2.5 to 4 cm long, with a petiole 1-4 mm in length. The stipules are short, triangular, and laciniate, with 5 mucronate teeth.
The cyathia are in terminal and sub-terminal cymes, peduncles 2-5 mm in length; the involucre cuplike, about 2 by 1.5 mm in size, with 4 or 5 marginal lobes, triangular-ovate, the apex acute, lacerate; there are 4 glands, small, broadly elliptic, flat, with a very narrow petaloid margin, pale yellow. There are separate male and female flowers.
When bruised, the plant exudes a milky sap.
The nectar from the flowers is diluted with water and used medicinally, for cleansing the throat.
† An Introduction to the Flowers of the Southern Islands
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2013
Page last updated 3rd December 2016 2016