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redbird cactus

(Pedilanthus tithymaloides), succulent plant, of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), native from Florida to Venezuela and sometimes grown in tropical rock gardens or as a pot plant in the north. (It is not a true cactus.) It is called devil's backbone, for the zigzag form some varieties exhibit, or shoe flower, for the shape of the red, birdlike whorl of bracts (leaflike structures located just below flowers) that are located at the tip of the 1.2-1.8-metre (4-6-foot), mostly leafless stems. The stems bleed copious amounts of milky latex if broken. There are varieties with variegated or reddish leaves.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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