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Spurges (Leafy, Myrtle, Cypress)

Species
Euphorbia esula, E. myrsinities, E. cyparissias

A large number of Euphorbia species from Europe have been introduced to BC gardens, though only a few are problematic, most notably, leafy spurge. Others, such as the myrtle and cypress spurges, are showing invasive tendencies as well. Spurges have small, green-yellow, umbrella-shaped clusters of petite flowers. All parts of the plant, when damaged, exude a milky latex sap.

How does it spread? 
Leafy spurges spread both through explosive seed release and via an extensive root system and can produce hundreds of new root buds per plant.  Seeds and viable root pieces may be dispersed by ants, birds, humans, grazing animals and water. Seeds often contaminate vehicles, livestock forage and seed stock and are spread further by horticulture use.

Where would I find it? 
Spurges are adaptable and destructive in nature allowing them to infest low- to mid-elevation pastures, fields, open forests, railway yards, embankments, grasslands and rangelands, marshes, gravel pits, gardens, roadside ditches, abandoned areas and wastelands.

What problems does it cause? 
Although these plants may still be popular in gardens, they are (like most Euphorbia species), toxic to humans, livestock and wildlife when consumed, or when latex (sap) contacts skin. Spurges readily invade roadsides, overgrazed pastures and dry meadows, which reduces forage opportunities for wildlife and livestock, as well as displaces native vegetation and decreases wildlife biodiversity. Once established, they are difficult to eradicate.

Additional Recommendations

  • Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma) (z2)
  • Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) (z6)
  • Martin’s Spurge (Euphorbia x martinii) (z7)
  • Lance-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum) BC native (z2)

A provincial initiative coordinated by ISCBC

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