What do a marble statue of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire, and a latex-clad model in a 2013 fashion magazine have in common?
The euphorbs, or Euphorbiaceae, is one of the most diverse groups of plants, with thousands of species. They range from delicate herbs to spiny shrubs on dry scrub.Most commonly they are known as spurge.
They are named after Euphorbus, physician to a friend of Augustus, who prescribed the ground-up dried leaves as a laxative. The medicine freed-up Augustus to join with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus to defeat Julius Caesar’s assassins, Brutus, Cassius and the rest.
The leaves of most Euphorbiaceae are high in terpenes, free amino acids, and cis-polyisoprene. These make up a milky sap which can be harvested to make latex.