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Leafy spurge

(Euphorbia esula)

Perennial growing to 0.9 m (3 ft) tall with persistent vertical and horizontal creeping roots. Introduced from Eurasia.

Quick Identification:

• Heart-shaped floral leaves.
• Greenish-yellow flower clusters.
• Exudes milky juice when cut or broken.
• Numerous pink buds on roots at stem base.

Interesting Facts:

Dead plants appear to inhibit the growth of other plants.  Large quantities can be toxic to grazing animals (and humans).  Milky latex in the stem is toxic.


Tillage, mowing, and pulling are generally
ineffective control treatments because of the plant’s
extensive root system. Biocontrol insects are available.  Selective herbicides are effective.

Reproduction and Dispersal:

Initially by seed, then reproduces by re-sprouting from its extensive, creeping root system. Can also re-sprout from root fragments.

Habitat Preference:

Tolerates a wide range of soil types, soil moisture levels and habitats. High genetic diversity results in quick adaptation to local growing conditions.


Greenish-yellow flowers on long stalks cluster in flat topped umbrellas. Flowers lack petals and sepals, relatively inconspicuous. Pairs of heart shaped floral leaves underneath flower clusters.

Leaves and Stems:

Pale, bluish green foliage exudes milky sap when cut. Thickly clustered, smooth, hairless stems branched near the top. Leaves, 2.5 to 10 cm long and 6 mm wide, numerous and usually drooping, attached directly to stem in an alternate or spiral arrangement.


Oblong, with three-celled capsule.  Capsules forcibly burst open when ripe, propelling seeds up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) and aiding in dispersal. Viable up to 8 years.


Vigorous, creeping root system with pink, scaly buds which develop into new shoots.  Can reach depth of 7.6 meters (25 feet) and extend 4.5 meters (15 feet).


All parts of leafy spurge plants contain a white milky latex that can cause severe blistering and dermatitis.  The sap can also cause temporary blindness if it comes into contact with your eyes.  Leafy spurge can spread very quickly and damage native plant habitats and degrade pastures.

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