An endemic species of the Canary Islands archipelago (except Lanzarote), the cardon is a succulent, branched, cacti-shaped shrub that can grow to over 4 m in height and form large colonies with hundreds of stems and a surface area of over 100 m2. It is considered one of the natural symbols of the island of Gran Canaria. The genus Euphorbia is dedicated to Euphorbus, physician to King Juba II of Mauritania, and its specific epithet alludes to its Canary Island origin. It was described by Charles Linnaeus in his Species plantarum in 1753.
As with many euphorbias, its latex is toxic. In fact, this toxicity was well known to the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, who used it for "embarrascado", a fishing technique consisting of throwing cut or broken branches into puddles to stun fish and catch them more easily, which is now banned.
Its stems are usually four to six-sided, with short, curved thorns growing from them, flowering at the top of their edges. It has become popular for ornamental use and can now be found in warm climates, especially in southern Europe.
They are a characteristic species of the "cardonal-tabaibal", a mixed plant formation typical of the lowland and coastal areas of the Canary Islands where low humidity and high temperatures predominate, although it can reach up to 700 metres in altitude depending on the topography and orientation. It is home to dragon trees, verodes and cactus.