The Firestick Plant, a Deadly Beauty

A Firestick plant is scientifically known as “Euphorbia tirucalli” and it mostly grows in semi-arid tropical climates. It is commonly known as Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, Sticks on Fire, or Milk Bush. The Firestick is a succulent cactus, where "succulent" in no way implies fleshy, juicy, appetizing or edible. The stem and leaves of this plant are full of a think juice which resembles a milky sap. The Firestick plant gained some unwanted fame in late July 2010, when Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California clipped the plant, got a little of the plant’s juice on his hands, and then proceeded to rub the same juice on his forehead by mistake. Pastor Rick Warren wasn’t aware of the fact that the milky juice running throughout this plant is extremely toxic and corrosive. If it comes in contact with the skin, it causes severe burning and if it comes in contact with the eyes it causes severe pain that can lead to temporary blindness for up to 7 days.

But the same toxic juice can be converted into an equivalent of gasoline. This discovery led chemist Melvin Calvin to propose further exploitation of the Firestick plant for producing oil. According to a conservative estimation by Calvin, it is possible to produce 10 to 50 barrels of oil per acre from the Firestick plant.

Gardening hopefuls or gardeners who want to cultivate a plantation of the "Milk Bush" should first get protective gear for protection. Protective gloves are a must along with a bandana or other headgear to stop you from touching your eyes, forehead or skin after coming in contact with the plant.

Planting a Firestick plant is fairly simple. Start by preparing a container with a cactus-growing soil mix and it should be about three-quarters full. The Firestick plant should be planted at the same depth as it was in its original container. The Firestick plant does not require a lot of water so only water once to the extent of making the ground moist. The Firestick plant requires a lot of sunshine so make sure it is planted at a place where is gets enough of direct sunlight.

The Firestick is a strikingly beautiful plant and its beauty deceives children. It is therefore not feasible to plant it anywhere near where children play.