Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula L.)

Designated Provincially Noxious, a perennial forb containing a white, milky latex. Mature plants are 20-90cm tall, smooth stems thickly clustered with yellowish-green small flowers in numerous clusters. Distinct heart-shaped bracts under flowers. Leaves are 2-6cm long alternately positioned along the stem.


Habitat and Ecology

Leafy spurge has a wide range of tolerances from very dry to wet but prefers semi-arid areas. Found in low to mid elevations in BC on dry roadsides, fields, grasslands, open forests and disturbed habitat.


Invades rangelands and decreases forage productivity for both wildlife and livestock. Roots extend nearly 4.5m laterally and up to 9m deep and 300 buds found on the roots giving it a very aggressive reproductive advantage. White milky substance produced can be poisonous to some livestock and can cause irritation, blotching, blisters and swelling if contacted by people. Always wear gloves when handling and do not touch your face or hands!


There are 7 biocontrol agents that have been released for Leafy Spurge. The most successful is a flea beetle called Apthona nigriscutis whose larva eat the plant’s roots. Sheep grazing in the US has also proved successful for management but not eradication. Most mechanical control like mowing, is not effective because of the extensive root system. Chemical applications of a combination of products is most successful in the spring before flowering (consult BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries, Crop Production Guide prior to application of any herbicide).


Province of British Columbia. 2002. Guide to Weeds in British Columbia.