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  • Noxious Weed Identification List

    Leafy Spurge

    (Euphorbia escula)

     Info Sheet Adobe PDF Icon  

    Colorado List B - Control required in Jefferson County


    • Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
    • Native Range: Europe and Asia
    • Deep-rooted, long-lived perennial
    • Extremely difficult to control
    • Contains toxins that may displace other plants



    • Found in disturbed sites, meadows, pastures, abandoned fields and roadside areas between 5,000 and 6,000 feet
    • Prefers dry locations but can tolerate moisture
    • Will grow in many soil types
    • Displaces native vegetation
    • Found in hot and cold climates




    • Mature plants are 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet tall
    • Contains a milky latex sap
    • Grows in dense patches
    • Stems are light green, hairless and turn reddish in the fall
    • Shoots develop from numerous stem and root buds and from seed
    • Leaves are 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and 1 to 4 inches long



    • Vertical and horizontal
    • Vertical roots grow to depths of 30 feet; horizontal roots may grow 15 feet per year
    • Withstand periods of drought, grazing and herbicides
    • Contain large food reserves
    • Plants will regrow after grazing or mechanical treatments



    • Color: yellowish-green
    • Enclosed in two, heart-shaped bracts (modified leaves)
    • Dried seed pods explode and expel seeds up to 15 feet
    • Season: April to May but may continue until fall
    • Seeds are dispersed 4 to 6 weeks after flowering
    • Flowers produce seed 45 to 55 days after bolting



    • Can remain viable for 8 or more years
    • Each stalk can produce 140 to 250 seeds



    • Germinates in early spring; peak germination is in May
    • Produces vegetative buds 10 to 12 days after germination
    • Can produce roots 3 feet deep and spread 40 inches laterally in 4 months
    • Rarely flowers the first year



    • Seed and vegetative
    • Can reproduce from root fragments 1/2 inch long




    • Works best as part of a IPM plan (May to August)
    • Aphthona sp., flea beetles
    • Hyles euphorbiae, Leafy spurge hawkmoth
    • Oberea erythrocephala, Red-headed Leafy spurge stem borer
    • Spurgia esulae, Leafy spurge tip gall midge





    • Prevention – maintain health of site
    • Intensive tilling
    • Promotion of healthy grass
    • Reseeding
    • Removal - not effective unless done within first year of growth and before seeds form



    • Burning - Ineffective if used alone.  May provide uniform regrowth for more effective herbicide treatment.  May allow grasses to germinate and provide competition 
    • Grazing - Goats and sheep – short-term, intensive grazing is most successful; must be repeated as plant regrow.  Cattle will not graze; causes lesions around the eyes and mouth; irritates the digestive tract
    • Mowing - Ineffective if used alone.  May provide regrowth for more effective herbicide treatment.  May allow grasses to germinate and provide competition 


    More Information


    Alicia Doran
    Weed & Pest Management Specialist




    Last Updated: 8-5-2013