The Spurge Page
King Juba II of Mauretania (ca. 50 BC- 19 AD) was educated in Rome and married Selene, daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra.
King Juba's interest in natural history led him to write about the plants he had found or knew about, including a thorny plant from Mount Atlas in Morocco. The irritating milky latex of this cactiform succulent plant is expelled from incisions made in the quadangular stems, coagulates in the sun and the resinous mass "euphorbium" is collected and sold in local markets. The latex was known to both Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder as a drastic purgative, emetic and for the treatment of abscesses. However, because of the severe nature of its effects it is no longer used medicinally. Other uses include preserving leather and wood.
According to Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), King Juba named this plant (probably Euphorbia resinifera) as "Euphorbea", after his Greek physician, Euphorbus. Some have suggested that King Juba thought the name appropriate because the corpulent nature of his physician reminded him of the fleshy plant. This is generally considered to be the origin of the name of the Genus Euphorbia. Pliny recorded the name in his Natural History 79 AD.
A variety E. regis-jubae of Euphorbia obtusifolia, discovered on an expedition sponsored by King Juba to the Canary Islands and Madeira, commemorates King Juba himself. Euphorbia was formally published by Linnaeus (Species Plantarum, 1753) as the official botanical name for the genus.