Weed of the Month: Leafy Spurge

Leafy Spurge has small, inconspicuous, and almost neon colored yellowish-green flowers enclosed in a heart-shaped leaf. Its additional leaves are long and narrow. Although the plant may look harmless in your yard, it contains a milky latex substance that can cause blisters, rashes, and even blindness. Imagine that it almost acts like bear spray if you were to touch it to your skin or eyes. It is also poisonous to cattle and wildlife. In addition, its seed capsules can shoot seeds up to fifteen feet away from the plant—thus invading a new territory at a rapid rate. Lastly, leafy spurge has a deep root system which can exceed twenty feet in depth and therefore can proliferate even if it is cut, mowed, or pulled. 

Leafy Spurge Control Methods

As mentioned, leafy spurge’s deep root system makes it a difficult plant to control. There are many invasive plants in our county that can be easily killed if you chop them such as musk thistle. Leafy spurge on the other hand is not so easily controlled. Plus, its seeds can stay viable in the soil for up to eight years. 

Although it is possible to dig around and under the plant to completely uproot it, this is typically only effective in small infections of a few plants. For larger infestations, we recommend an herbicide application before the plant goes to seed. This ensures that the plant dies and cannot proliferate further. It is important to check the site of infestation for the next eight years to determine if any seeds were viable in the soil and if a new infestation may occur.