Euphorbia tirucalli L.:The plant grows well in dry regions or land that is not suitable for growing food. This plant can produce about 10 and 50 barrels of oil per acre by cutting near the ground.
By Ashwani Kumar
| September 25th 2009 08:24 PM | Print
Euphorbia tirucalli L.:
Family: Euphorbiaceae Genus: Euphorbia
Species: tirucalli, insulana
Common names: English: Indian tree spurge, Milk hedge, Petroleum-plant, aveloz, milk bush, pencil tree, Sehund, Thohra, and Konpal-sehnd.
E. tirucalli is a succulent cactus-like plant growing to a height of about 10 m. It was introduced from Africa as a garden plant; and it is now naturalized in tropical areas and rainforests in the Amazon, Madagascar, and South Africa. The main trunk and branches are woody and brown, but the younger branches are green and cylindrical, looking like many pencils and earning the plant its common name - pencil tree.
Leaves are minute and are shed early, and the function of the leaves is taken over by the green branches. All parts of the plant ooze a caustic milky white sap when damaged, like many other Euphorbia spp. (Fig: 3.18 and 3.19).
E. tirucalli Grows in arid zones as well as zones that are more mesophytic, the species makes a good living fence post. The plant grows well in dry regions or land that is not suitable for growing food. This plant can produce about 10 and 50 barrels of oil per acre by cutting near the ground.
The latex is toxic to fish and rats. Africans regard the tree as a mosquito repellent (Betancur-Galvis et al., 2002). In Ganjium, rice boiled with the latex is used as an avicide. The wood is used for rafters, toys, and veneer. The charcoal derived there from can be used in gunpowder. Since the latex contains rubber, whole plant harvesting seems most advisable from energy point-of-view (if the tree coppices well) with rubber, petroleum, and alcohol as energy products, and resins, which may find use in the linoleum, skin oil, and leather industries (Almeida, 1993; Costa, 2002; Tiwari et al., 2003).
E. tirucalli has recently made popular headlines as a potential "cancer cure" and more important, as an energy source (Cataluna et al., 2006). E. tirucalli is also called "petroleum plant" because it produces a hydrocarbon substance very much like gasoline. Petrobas, the national petroleum company in Brazil, is studying this plant. It is thought that the hydrocarbon produced by the plant could be used directly in existing gasoline refineries; estimates of 10 to 50 barrels of oil per acre of cultivated E. tirucalli with cost estimates of $3-10 per barrel have been postulated (Betancur-Galvis et al., 2002).