Spurges (Leafy, Myrtle, Cypress)

Euphorbia esula, E. myrsinities, E. cyparissias

Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) is a perennial, considered noxious under the BC Weed Control Act, and commonly found at low- to mid-elevations on dry roadsides, fields, grasslands, open forests, and disturbed habitats. Isolated pockets occur in the Cariboo, Boundary, East Kootenay, Nechako, and North Okanagan areas. It is a major concern in the Kootenay, Okanagan, Thompson, Cariboo, and Omineca regions.

Leafy spurge has clusters of petite, yellowish-green flowers supported by distinctive heart-shaped leaves just below flowers. It is a bushy plant with narrow leaves that spiral around the stem, and grows up to a metre tall with extensive horizontal and vertical roots.

Leafy spurge spreads with its extensive root system, which can exceed 4.5 metres horizontally and 9 metres vertically. Up to 300 new buds can form on the roots of a single plant. Seed reproduction also contributes to new growth. Leafy spurge is a uniquely competitive invasive plant as it produces a compound that actively inhibits the growth of other plants nearby. The entire plant contains white, milky latex that can irritate skin of livestock and humans, resulting in blisters and swelling. Leafy spurge invades rangeland, reducing its productivity for livestock and wildlife.

A few native and ornamental alternatives to plant instead of leafy spurge include: Broad-leaf Stonecrop; Yellow Ice Plant; Red Hot Poker; Common Rockrose; and Yellow Gem Shrubby Cinquefoil. Read more about these alternatives in the Grow Me Instead booklet for BC.

Refer to Weeds BC for information on prevention and control methods.

TIPS Factsheets

Leafy Spurge

Leafy Spurge is an herbaceous perennial plant that has been introduced from Eurasia. It is believed that leafy spurge was first brought to Canada in contaminated seed stocks brought by immigrants to Canada. This species is also known by the common name, wolf’s milk, as this plant contains toxic white, milky latex in its leaves and stems. This milky latex has been known to irritate the skin of people and animals, producing blisters and swelling. It also produces an allelopathic compound that inhibits the growth of other plants, enabling it to out-compete native species and establish a monoculture.Learn more

Gallery: Leafy Spurge

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