Euphorbia Marginata

Blindingly beautiful

Don’t look now, but there could be a danger lurking in the garden!

Let me first apologize for missing last week’s column after an unusual garden accident.

Last Friday I was privileged to work with a friend in her garden. One of the tasks was to cut some flowers to bring into our homes, and in the process prune out the leggy plants in the front yard.

As we were working with a stand of euphorbia marginata, I was warned that the milky sap was very dangerous. It contains complex esters similar to those in poinsettias, or euphorbia pulcherrima. I had never experienced the blisters and itching that other gardeners had experienced from the various euphorbias they encountered.

To prove this, I tested a patch of skin on my leg by rubbing the fresh sap on it. Nothing happened. This was not surprising, as I had often encountered the sap of a weedy relative, euphorbia maculata, or “prostrate spurge” on my patio.

At home, I proceeded to put the pretty “Snow On The Mountain” euphorbia into vases. If any sap touched my hands, it was immediately washed off as per my friend’s precautions.

A short time after cutting the stems of this pretty plant, I found myself being rushed to an emergency eye doctor visit. By then, it felt as if my eyeballs had been ripped from their sockets and replaced by atomic fireballs.

How could this poison have ended up in my eyes? I do touch my eyes often, but only with clean hands. Could the sap have become airborne while I cut the stems for arranging? Could it have remained on the skin, even after washing? I know hot pepper juice did, and this felt like it!

After a two-hour hunt for a pharmacy that carried the medicine prescribed, the searing pain subsided. That night in our regular Bible reading, Gary came to Proverbs 23:29.

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?”

Then, not breaking the cadence of the scripture reading, he added his own commentary. “She who handles euphorbia without gloves.” We both erupted in laughter.

My eyesight has almost returned to normal after a week. In any case, it never got as bad as some of the accounts in the medical sites, which included temporary or permanent blindness.

But who really does have woe, sorrow, wounds, and redness of the eyes?

“Those who linger long over wine,
Those who go to taste mixed wine.

Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it goes down smoothly;

At the last it bites like a serpent
And stings like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:30 -32).

There is a dangerous blindness caused by that which “sparkles in the cup.” Too many people think that there is no danger in drinking alcohol.

My first date with a handsome young actor was marred by the host at the cast party trying to persuade me to drink. My strong, logical objections were rewarded by my date vowing never to drink again.

I may be tempted to look upon euphorbia when it is white, and sparkles in the dew, but I know now that in the end it bites like a serpent and stings like jalapeño peppers. I have had occasion to move the euphorbia in the last few days — and this time I wore gloves.

We must take warnings from God with all seriousness, and not be blinded by the illusion of something that looks good.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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