Tabaiba is abundant along the coast of the island. The low shrub seems a bit dry at first glance, but if you look closely you will see a small flower core between the green leaves. These flowers develop right in the center of the leaves where they eventually form a spherical fruit.
The branch of the shrub contains - as with most plants of the spurge family - a viscous white sap, which (when exposed to heat) solidifies, leaving a rubbery mass that is easy to work with. The resulting latex played an important role in the island's history. Depending on the species, it served as medicine, glue and even chewing gum, among other things!
For example, the juice of the Tabaiba Dulce (Euphorbia balsamifera) is non-toxic, and helps soothe warts and corns. It was used by the early islanders, in its dried form, as a kind of tooth-cleaning chewing gum. In the 1950s, the juice was industrially processed into chewing gum and was for many years a popular confectionery throughout Spain, under the name Chicle Tabay.
- Fun fact: The Spanish word for chewing gum, chicle, dates back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures, who, among other things, used the sap of the gum tree as chewing gum, sicte or also called tzictli. After the Spanish conquest, this word was corrupted in Spanish to chicle.
The Guanches used the poisonous sap of the Tabaiba Amarga (Euphorbia lamarckii) for a special fishing technique, the so-called embarbascar.
Between high tide and low tide, the receding water was dammed, forming shallow pools (charcos). After adding a small amount of anesthetic Tabaiba sap to the water, the fish remaining in the charcos were stunned and could easily be caught by hand.
It is not recommended to experiment with Tabaiba sap yourself. Although the tabaiba dulce is quite easy to recognize (it has only one flower, unlike the other varieties), it can burn quite a bit if, for example, you get a drop of the sap in your eye.
Apart from that, the Tabaiba has an important function, namely to prevent erosion. In an area where not many trees can grow, this type of vegetation is of enormous importance.