Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula)

leafy spurge


Appearance: Perennial herbaceous plant, 2- 3 1/2' tall, erect branching, smooth stems growing from a deep vertical root. Stems, flowers, and leaves emit a white milky sap when broken.

Leaves: Alternate, small, oblong to lance-shaped, on the upper part of stem; scale-like on the lower part of the stem.

Flowers: Small, borne by showy yellow-green bracts which open in late May; flowers bloom from June into fall. Umbrella-shaped flower cluster, 7-10, at the top of each stem, single, stemmed flowers grow from leaf axils below.

Seeds: Explosive dispersal from a seed capsule up to 15'; high germination rate; seeds remain viable in the soil for 7 years.

Roots: Extensive deep root system, vegetative reproduction from crown and root buds.

Ecological Threat:

  • Rapidly invades primarily non-cropland disturbed environments, such as roadsides.
  • Is a threat primarily to moist and dry prairies and savannas, quickly displacing native plants.
  • Tolerant of a wide range of habitats, from dry to moist, and sunny to semi-shade. Most aggressive in dry soil conditions where there is less competition from native plants.
  • Native to Europe and Asia it occurs across much of the northern U.S. in the grasslands and savannas of the Great Plains.
  • Leafy spurge is a MDA Prohibited noxious weed (Control List) in Minnesota.


Control Methods:

Mechanical & Chemical

  • Prescribed burning in conjunction with repeated treatment with glyphosate + 2,4-D (one pint each per acre).
  • Imazapic (Plateau): Apply 1-1.3 oz/gallon water + 1 oz/gallon water methylated seed oil(MSO)for spot treatment of 8-12 oz per acre + MSO in late September thru October when native plants have gone dormant and leafy spurge has a second flush of growth (test: milky sap still emits from broken stem).



Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources