Today, we shall be discovering the rare Sea Spurge which goes by the Maltese name of Tengħud tar-Ramel and the Scientific name: euphorbia paralias. This shrubby plant which is native of the Mediterranean region, including Malta, is found exclusively on coastal sand dunes.
The Sea Spurge is a permanent (perennial) plant which may reach a height of around 70cm. Its erect stems, which are branched at their base, are covered with over-lapping closely set leaves. Such foliage is lance-shaped, leather-like, with a bluish to greyish-green colour. In summer the flowers are borne in an inflorescence, which somewhat resembles the spokes of an umbrella having 3 to 6 rays. The bracts, a modified leaf subtending the flowers, are green and bear kidney-shaped glands. Following fertilisation, a three-lobed fruit is produced which contains pale grey, smooth seeds.
The Sea Spurge, like all dune vegetation, is adapted to the harsh conditions of this habitat, which include high temperatures, dryness and the occasional inundation by seawater. Such adaptations, include an extensive root system which provides anchorage in sand (which is very mobile) and having rather fleshy leaves to limit water-loss.
The Sea Spurge is considered to be a species of national interest and is consequently protected by national legislation; one should not collect, uproot or cut this plant without prior permission from the Competent Authorities.
MEPA, through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation, is also helping to protect the Sea Spurge by safeguarding its habitat- the sand dunes, which are extremely restricted on our Islands.