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I bought this plant a while ago. The shop assistant wasn’t sure what it was, there was only one left, and all I got is that it’s a succulent.

It’s not doing great, and I hope knowing what it is could help with research.

The small leaves you can see at the top are square-ish, and there are always two new leaves growing from each of them, together with a wilted little thing that looks like it could be a flower - although I don't think I've ever seen it look very flower-y.

Since taking this photo late last year, the plant has not been doing well, and lost most of the top branches with the square leaves. It has recently grown a whole bunch of new big leaves, though, like the ones growing from the stem.

Does anybody know what it is?

Update: The first answer to this question suggests that it's a Euphorbia succulent, so that should narrow it down a bunch - but trawling the internet and clicking through page after page of images hasn't resulted in a match yet.

unknown succulent

  • It looks a bit like a different variation on the mutations of the jade plant (crassula ovata) sold as "Hobbit" or "Gollum" from the finger-like shapes of the leaves. Those mutations seem to be caused by symbiotic bacteria living inside the plant. The big "normal" leaves at the base don't look like a jade plant, though... – alephzero Jul 29 '19 at 9:21
  • Hm.. interesting! It's different in a way, as it's very symmetric - there are always two little square leaves that grow out of one of those square leaves, whereas the Jade plant is a bit more messy. – Sebastian Jul 29 '19 at 9:39
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I'm not at all sure what this is, but I'm betting it's a plant from the weird and wonderful world of succulent Euphorbias. The thorny stem suggests Euphorbia milii which produces red or pink or white bracts; the closest I can find is Euphorbia milii grandiflora 'Green Apple' https://www.uhlig-kakteen.de/en/euphorbia-grandiflora-thai-hybr-green-apple.html but it isn't that either because the bracts are the wrong shape. There's a huge range of succulent euphorbias which look nothing like each other, but all produce a white latex sap which can be highly irritant on skin; this link https://www.succulents.us/euphorbia.html demonstrates quite how broad a range of succulent euphorbias there are (unfortunately, yours is not shown).

If you're prepared to, either break off a small piece of stem (wearing gloves) or push a pin into one stem or one of the larger leaves to see if the sap produced is white, which would at least confirm or deny that it is a Euphorbia.

If it is a Euphorbia, the likelihood is the top parts are actually bracts (what passes for flowers) and the production of new leaves is a good sign that the plant is healthy.

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  • I pushed a pin into one of the side stems and it showed white sap. I also Googled a bit, and found the Euphorbia characias, which is incredibly close! The leaves are the wrong shape, but I think a bit more searching and I'll find the exact one! – Sebastian Jul 29 '19 at 22:01
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    Euphorbia characias (and varieties of it) is a common one grown in gardens, but its not one of the succulent types I'm afraid.... there are hundreds of euphorbias, but at least the sap confirms its a Euphorbia of some sort. Either way, if yours is growing leaves, its doing well, so whatever you're doing to care for it seems to be correct... – Bamboo Jul 30 '19 at 0:12
  • Good to know, and I'm glad it appears to be doing OK. – Sebastian Jul 30 '19 at 9:42
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Since reading Bamboo's answer, I spent an ungodly amount of time clicking through literally thousands of images, and finally found the answer.

This specific succulent is called Euphorbia monadenium echinulatum, is at home in Zambia & Tanzania and was originally described in 1900 by a German-sounding guy called Otto Stapf.

There's more proof here and here.

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