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Leafy Spurge

(Euphorbia esula L.)

Leafy Spurge Leafy spurge is of European origin. It is considered a noxious weed and is included on the Colorado and Adams County Noxious Weed Lists. It is probably the most serious noxious weed threat in Colorado. This deep-rooted perennial forb spreads by seed and by aggressive, creeping horizontal roots (rhizomes). Vertical roots can extend as deep as 30 feet, are brown in color, and contain numerous pink buds that generally produce new shoots or roots. It is because of this root system that leafy spurge is extremely difficult to control. The shoots grow from 1 to 3 feet tall, are pale green and unbranched except for flower clusters.

Leaves are alternate, narrow, linear, ¼ inch wide, and 1 to 4 inches long. Stems are thickly clustered. Flowers are very small and yellowish-green. They are enclosed by very visible yellowish-green, heart-shaped bracts. The stems contain a milky sap that is damaging to eyes and sensitive skin, and causes severe irritation of the mouth and digestive tract in cattle.

Leafy spurge will grow on good cultivated lands, shallow rocky soils, rangelands, and along waterways. Where it becomes established, it crowds out practically all other vegetation. Although it is unpalatable to cattle, sheep and goats eat spurge, and are useful biocontrol tools in an integrated weed management program.

In Adams County, leafy spurge can mainly be found along the South Platte River and along Kiowa Creek. If you think you might have this weed on your property, or would like more information, please contact the Adams County Weed Department at 303-637-8115


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