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The plants are annual or perennial herbs, woody shrubs, or trees with a caustic, poisonous milky latex. The roots are fine or thick and fleshy or tuberous. Many species are more or less succulent, thorny, or unarmed. The main stem and mostly also the side arms of the succulent species are thick and fleshy, 15–91 cm (6–36 in) tall. The deciduous leaves may be opposite, alternate, or in whorls. In succulent species, the leaves are mostly small and short-lived. The stipules are mostly small, partly transformed into spines or glands, or missing.