National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity
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Home - Species - Concepts - The extended family - Plants - Magnolias and daisies - Candelillas

What are their characteristics?
They are herbs, shrubs, trees and some climbers. The majority of species have a white or red exudate or sap which in many cases is extremely toxic. Their leaves are mainly alternate, sometimes opposite or verticillated. The form varies; they can be simple, digitate compound, palmate, lobulate, dentate or entire. They often have stipules. The leaves have hairs from the simple, peltate, scaly or T-shaped, and are very notable in the sangrillo species (Croton draco).

The mala mujer species (Cnidoscolus spp.) have extremely irritant glandular hairs that can provoke extreme allergic reactions on contact.

The flowers are usually very small, monoecious or dioecious. The stamens vary but are often reduced to one. In the females, the ovary usually has three cavities (tricarpelar). The flowers often tend to have a reduced number of parts and are naked and usually unisexual. They group into a fleshy axis with five to seven male flowers and a central female flower, all surrounded by bracts. The set is called a cyathium and has widely varying shapes and sizes. The cyathia are sometimes grouped into umbels. This type of inflorescence only occurs in the poinsettia (Euphorbia spp.) and in their closest relatives of the same gender.

How do they live?
This family, along with the legumes and composites are the most abundant anywhere in the country, especially in dry tropical forests. Some species have very small leaves (microfilia) and a thickened stem as adaptations to their dry environments. They are common in pastures and ruderal vegetation. Due to their toxicity, livestock find them unpalatable.