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Report an Invasive Species

Leafy Spurge

Leafy Spurge

Leafy Spurge

(Euphorbia esula)

Priority: -  Prevent

Tags: Agricultural | Toxic | EDRR | Biocontrol

Identification and Reproduction


  • 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. 


  • 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. 



  • 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. 


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


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. 


Download A Guide to Weeds in British Columbia for Leafy Spurge here.

Header photo (HermannSchachner).