Euphorbia serrata or Hell’s Fig Tree

Yellow colored Euphorbia serrata shrub

This is a plant that not to be confused with Matalaché. The Euphorbia serrata is also known by the names of spikelet serrata, the fig tree of hell and as serrata leaf spurge.

This is one of the herbaceous annual plants native to Europe. They usually grow wild in the vicinity of the prairiesjust like on the edge of the roads. The sap of this plant has a latex that has a high content of esters, which has been used traditionally in Spain as a kind of catalyst for milk rennet.


Euphorbia serrata also called Hell's Fig Tree

The Euphorbia serrata is known to be an annual herb which can measure up to 40 cm high, it is usually straight and without any branching.

It has a single stem where the leaves are distributed alternatelyoval and in turn serrated. It has a characteristic serrated edge of leaves as well as bracts that allows it to be easily differentiated from other species called euphorbias.

Its flowers, which are of a striking bright green color, usually appear in mid-spring and they are usually hermaphrodites.

Its pollination is generally carried out by the diptera. The fruit it generates is small and has a dehiscent capsule shape. Each of the parts of this plant has a large amount of latex that is white and quite viscous, and it is precisely from this characteristic that its vulgar name comes.

Its distribution and its habitat

As already mentioned above, Euphorbia serrata is native to the countries of Europe.

The soil that this plant needs to survive can be light or in its medium difference, with enough light and with very little humidity so that the seeds can germinate; usually appears very frequently and spontaneously in the plainsjust like on the roadsides, but it can also appear on the edges of forests in temperate regions of Europe.

On the other hand and in the same way, it is well known in crops, especially vine or vitis vinifera, where is usually considered a weed.


In some of the towns in the Andalusia area, it was commented that the girls expressed the milk that produces this plant to be able to paint moles on your face as if it were a fun children’s game.

They used to apply a fairly small amount of this substance to their faces, and this substance caused a burn that it looked like the formation of a small mole which they used to take as a symbol of beauty.


The butterfly named Oxicesta serratae, often lays its eggs on the surface of this plant so that once their larvae hatch, they serve as food.

At present it is a plant that it is very fashionable. It is used as an environmental benefit, as well as enrichment for the landscapes of the gardens of the urbanizations that are on the coasts.

It is usually a grateful and quite resistant plant. Euphorbia serrata bushes tend to look excellent on rockeries as well as on the base of walls, and on the other hand, it is important to mention that it is a plant that does not require a lot of water.

The Euphorbia serrata has very high levels of toxicity. It usually affects mainly the digestive system, the liver and also the kidneys, causing the appearance of quite considerable irritations in people who for some reason consume their latex, giving the possibility that these effects cause the death of the person if the amount that ingested is very high.

If it happens that the skin is in contact with latex, this can cause the appearance of a fairly strong redness in it, accompanied by a high appearance of blisters. However, these properties used to be used as a treatment for external rheumatic pain of any kind.

Using this plant externally on the skin can even cause dermatitis, either by contact or also by photosensitization (It is a prolonged exposure to sunlight after being in contact with latex).

It is important to avoid contact with the areas of the eyes as it can cause irritations to blindness.

Symptoms of poisoning

If this plant is used internally, it can cause symptoms such as those presented below:

  • When the dose is small: stomach pain, vomiting and nausea that are usually accompanied by other more severe symptoms such as the presence of blood or diarrhea.
  • When the dose is higher: shortness of breath that ends in cardiac arrest.

Medical treatment in case of poisoning from ingesting Euphorbia serrata latex is proceed with stomach emptying (a gastric lavage that is accompanied by the supply of emollients).

Pregnant women, lactating women and young children should be especially careful not to ingest this substance. However, it is also true that Euphorbia serrata offers some health benefitsbut you need to be quite careful with your application.

Is it dangerous for animals?

Throughout history there have been records of some cases of animals that have been seen intoxicated from consuming any herb containing Euphorbia serrata.

More recent research has suggested that there is evidence that animals that have grass as food with some content of plants that belong to the genus of Euphorbias, may have a high risk of transmit tumors to humans They use the meat of these animals as food, because of the levels of toxicity that are found.


Inferno fig tree growing wild

For the elaboration of curative remedies

It has been used consistently as home remedy to eliminate the formation of warts or cornsby applying a small amount of latex over the affected area.

After a while, the use of this plant was abandoned and replaced by the use of other plants that are much safer such as the wise of the fig tree.

Prepared for internal use

The seeds as well as the powder of the roots that this plant contains have been used widely as a very effective laxative or in a higher dose as a purgative to treat many cases of constipation. However, because it is a fairly toxic plant, it is not recommended to use it for any homemade preparation.

Euphorbia serrata or Hell’s Fig Tree

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