Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Fire-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia cyathophoroa) is native to much of the Americas and is a self-sowing annual. That means that although the plant will live for only one growing season, the seed it drops late in fall will germinate and grow the following spring.
Look for it along the path on the western edge of the Wild Garden. Its neatly-lobed foliage and red-hued bracts create an interesting effect for several weeks in late summer and into fall.
As long as the seedlings are not weeded out by mistake—the recognition of desirable plants at a very early stage in their development is just one of the abilities required of a skilled gardener—they will make their presence known by late summer. This is exactly the time when gaps can appear in the garden after earlier-blooming plants have started to die back.
The first shot here looks south along the western edge of the Wild Garden. The second looks west out over the T. H. Everett Alpine House and its terrace.
Closely related to Euphorbia cyathophora, by the way, is the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) of winter holiday season fame. A large shrub from western Mexico, where they can grow to ten feet or more, poinsettia specimens sold in pots seldom live long enough to achieve such a stature.