The Medusa plant is a cactus or succulent that is more commonly known by the name Medusa head (Euphorbia flanaganii). A member of the Euphorbiaceae family, the Medusa head is a native plant of South Africa; however, it has adapted to dryer regions of the United States and grows quite well in Southern California. Its unusual appearance makes it a favorite plant for succulent collectors.
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Named after Medusa, a Gorgon in Greek mythology, the Medusa head is considered an oddity in the cactus world. Easily recognized by long, green, flowing stems that are thought to resemble hair, these plants typically grow from 6 to 12 inches in height and sometimes reach the size of a human head. The Medusa head produces small yellow-green flowers that bloom in midsummer.
The Medusa head produces a latex sap when its tendrils are cut or torn. This sap can cause severe allergic reactions in certain individuals and may also cause burning to the skin. Rubber gloves and eye protection should always be worn when cutting, repotting or handling the Medusa head. If you make accidental contact with the sap, wash the exposed skin area immediately with soap and water. Seek immediate medical attention if the sap makes contact with your eyes.
Suitable for use in containers, the Medusa head prefers a mildly acidic — 6.1 to 6.5 — or mildly alkaline — 7.6 to 7.8 — soil that is well-drained. Choose an area outdoors that allows direct sunlight for six to eight hours a day. Water weekly. These plants are drought-tolerant, but they do not handle freezing temperatures. The Medusa head does well is U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone 9 through Zone 11.
Medusa head plants produce side branches on their long stems that may be used for cuttings. Wear gloves, and use pruning shears to remove side branches when they are about the size of a 50-cent piece. Allow the cuttings to dry for two to three days before planting. Use a standard potting soil, and plant each cutting in an 8-inch pot or place it directly in the garden. Water regularly to encourage cuttings to root.