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Products > Synadenium compactum var. rubrum
Synadenium compactum var. rubrum - African Milk Bush

Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurges)
Origin: Africa, East (Africa)
Red/Purple Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: Red
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Synonyms: [S. grantii 'Rubra', Euphorbia bicompacta]
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Synadenium compactum var. rubrum (African Milk Bush) - A upright semi-evergreen to deciduous (in California) shrub that grows typically to 6 to 15 feet tall but in habitat to over 20 feet. It has thick 5-8 inch long leaves that can be entirely red or green, or a combination of both on the upper surface and purple-red beneath. Occasionally blooms with minute red flowers (bracts). Plant in full sun to light shade. Give occasional to little irrigation. It is frost tender but leaves re-emerge without stem damage after mild frosts and the plant can resprout from base if top is frozen at short duration temperatures much below 25 F. As with most plants in the Euphorbia family the sap is toxic but this plant produces a copious amount of sap or "milk" and care needs to be taken when cutting or working with the plant that it not be allowed to get in the eyes. The latex is known to be oil soluble so if it gets on your skin it can be removed with any cooking oil, much as it done with beach tar. African Milk Bush is native to rocky slopes in open bushland in the Kaivasha District in Kenya. It is also known as the "Purple Leaf Brown Jug Plant" or "Red Milk Bush" and is often confused in horticulture with the larger and greener Synadenium grantii that also grows in Kenya but also in Uganda and further south. In the most recent taxonomic treatment Synadenium compactum var. rubrum has be renamed Euphorbia bicompacta var. rubra (S.Carter) Bruyns (Synadenium grantii was renamed Euphorbia umbellata (Pax) Bruyns), but we continue to list it under its older name until such time as this name gets better recognized.  Information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library, from online sources, as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery's garden and in other gardens where we have observed it. We also will incorporate comments received from others and welcome getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips would aid others in growing Synadenium compactum var. rubrum.