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Devil’s Backbone

The Euphorbia titymaloides ‘Nana’ ( sub species) is a mouthful for a name of a plant. I understand why plants need common names with the scientific names being so difficult to pronounce. But I do have a small problem.

I wonder why anyone would call such a beautiful plant the devil’s backbone. It is also called the Jacob’s ladder through which the Bible says that the angels of God ascended and descended from Heaven to Earth. These names are so opposed (like an oxymoron) to each other by what they mean.

These plants are so easy to grow that they are often planted on the roadsides. They don’t require any care, and will grow on any kind of soil which doesn’t allow for water to stagnate. All they ask for is well draining soil and they will grow happily. Roadsides which often taper down make great spaces for these plants to be grown.

Their tiny red/pink flowers attract hummingbirds, sun birds and birds that love nectar. The variegated type of this plant looks even more beautiful.  They have pale pink flowers which are barely noticeable.

  • Question of

    Do you think this looks like the devil’s backbone?

  • Question of

    Is it justified to give a beautiful plant such a name?


What do you think?

11 Points

Written by Dawn

Content AuthorYears Of Membership


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  1. I’ve never heard of these being called Devil’s Backbone, but I have heard them called Jacob’s Ladder. Maybe different names for different areas?

    I agree on the two names, quite opposite from one another!

    • Here are called the devils back bone more, Jacobs ladder is a much less used name. Maybe you are right the common names are region specific I guess.
      Pothos is also called devils ivy.. I wonder why.

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