Scientific Name
Euphorbia obesa Hook.f.
Higher Classification
Euphorbia obesa Hook.f. subsp. symmetrica (A.C.White, R.A.Dyer & B.Sloane) G.D.Rowley, Euphorbia symmetrica A.C.White, R.A.Dyer & B.Sloane
Common Names
Vetmensie (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Endangered B1ab(iv,v)+2ab(iv,v); C2a(i)
Assessment Date
P.V. Bruyns, D. Raimondo & A.P. Dold
This species has a limited distribution range with an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 955 km² and an area of occupancy of 24 km². Two locations continue to decline due to collection of wild individuals for horticultural purposes. The total population is estimated to be fewer than 500 mature individuals, with a number of small subpopulations consisting, on average, of about 30 mature individuals. It is therefore listed as Endangered under criteria B and C.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape
This species is endemic to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where it ranges from Graaff-Reinet to Rietbron.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Eastern Lower Karoo, Gamka Karoo, Southern Karoo Riviere, Eastern Gwarrieveld
It occurs in open karroid shrubland, stony slopes and flats, in loose sandy soils under small shrubs, or wedged among stones.
The most popular Euphorbia species in succulent collections, it is highly sought after for its unique globose growth form. Shortly after its description in 1897, succulent collectors exploited the wild population, and this was probably one of the first native South African species to be noted as threatened with extinction, as early as 1915. Despite this species being placed on provincial protected species lists and CITES Appendix II, wild collection and illegal trade continues (Van Jaarsveld 2002). Farm workers are reported to sell wild collected plants along roadsides to passing motorists, and unscrupulous collectors gain permission from private landowners to collect on their properties and proceed to remove entire subpopulations (Dold 1995). Livestock also browses this species during times of drought, causing additional pressure on the already small remaining population.

The two known subpopulations of this species consist of about 30 mature individuals. The population is estimated to be fewer than 500 mature individuals.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Euphorbia obesa Hook.f.EN B1ab(iv,v)+2ab(iv,v); C2a(i)2014.1
Euphorbia obesa Hook.f. subsp. symmetrica (A.C.White, R.A.Dyer & B.Sloane) G.D.RowleyCR B1ab(i,ii,iv,v)+2ab(i,ii,iii,v)Raimondo et al. (2009)
Euphorbia obesa Hook.f. subsp. obesa EN B1ab(iv,v)+2ab(iv,v); C2a(i)Raimondo et al. (2009)
Euphorbia obesa Hook.f. subsp. obesa Endangered Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Euphorbia symmetrica A.C.White, R.A.Dyer & B.SloaneVulnerable Hilton-Taylor (1996)

Bruyns, P.V. 2012. Nomenclature and typification of southern African species of Euphorbia. Bothalia 42(2):217-245.

Dold, A.P. 1995. Rare plants of the Eastern Cape: 1. Euphorbia obesa. The Naturalist 39(1):35-36.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Marx, G. 1987. Euphorbia obesa. Aloe 24(2):31.

Marx, G. 1992. The succulent Euphorbias of the southeastern Cape province. Part one: Dwarf species and smaller shrubs. The Euphorbia Journal 8:74-103.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Snijman, D.A. 2013. Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region 2: The extra Cape flora. Strelitzia 30. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

White, A., Dyer, R.A. and Sloane, B.L. 1941. The succulent Euphorbieae (Southern Africa) Volume II. Abbey Garden Press, Pasadena.

Williamson, G. and Stegmann, B.J. 2004. Euphorbia symmetrica is alive and well at the type locality. Aloe 41(4):80.

Bruyns, P.V., Raimondo, D. & Dold, A.P. 2022. Euphorbia obesa Hook.f. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version . Accessed on 2024/05/18

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Distribution map

© C. Paterson-Jones

© C. Paterson-Jones

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