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Leafy spurge

Leafy spurge

Leafy spurge

(Euphorbia esula)

Priority: -  Eradicate

Tags: Agricultural | Toxic | EDRR | Biocontrol

Identification and Reproduction

Identification: 

  • Leafy spurge is a herbaceous perennial that grows up to 1 m tall. 
  • Stems are smooth, bluish-green and if broken they will exude a milky substance. 
  • The leaves are lance shaped, smooth, up to 10 cm long and arranged alternately along the stem. 

  • Flowers are found in clusters and are composed of two heart shaped yellow to green bracts. This plant blooms in June. 

Reproduction: 

  • This plant reproduces by seeds which have a germination rate. 
  • Seeds can remain viable in the soil for at least 8 years. 
  • Seeds explode from the seed capsules and this can send the seeds up to 5 m from the parent plant. 
  • It also reproduces vegetatively and has an extensive root system. 

Habitat & Ecology

  • It is well adapted to various soil properties and climates. 
  • It is most vigorous in semi-arid conditions and coarser textured soils. 
  • Commonly found along dry roadsides, fields, waste sites and distrubed soils. 

Impacts

Social: 

  • Its milky substance from the stems and flowers causes skin irritation in both livestock and humans. 
  • Degrades grazing and rangelands quality.
  • Reduces likestock forage availability. 
  • Can also impact the aesthetic levels of landscape, having an impact on tourist value. 

Ecological: 

  • This plant will out-shade and uptake available water and nutrients. 
  • Degrades wildlife habitat. 
  • It also has allelopathic properties that suppresses native plant growth. 

Management

Mechanical/Manual Control: 

  • Small infestations they can be hand-pulled, but ensure entire roots are removed. 
  • Make sure to wear gloves and long sleeves to minimize skin exposure. 
  • Mowing in combination with chemical applications have seen success. 

Chemical Control: 

  • Currently 2,4-D, glyphosate and picloram are registered chemicals for use on leafy spurge. 
  • Herbicide can be applied to small patches and may require repeat applications. 
  • It is crucial to apply herbicides when plants are actively growing and in seed production; mid to late June. 
  • Please carefully read all product labels prior to application. 

Biological Control: 

  • The use of flea beetles (Aphthona nigriscutis and+ Aphthona cyparrissae) has showed success in controlling leafy spurge growth. 
  • These adult beetles will feed on the leaves and their larvae will mine into the plant roots. 

Resources

Download the Invasive Species Council of BC's Factsheet on Leafy Spurge here

Header photo (HermannSchachner).