Scientific name: Euphorbia esula

What Is It?

Leafy spurge is an erect plant that grows up to 3 feet tall, with yellow flowers. It can survive in a wide variety of conditions, but spreads most successfully in areas that have been grazed. Leafy spurge can dramatically reduce the livestock carrying capacity on pasture and rangelands. Multiple strains of leafy spurge most likely were imported to the United States at different times from Europe and Asia.

Is It Here Yet?

Yes. Leafy spurge has been documented in 16 counties, mostly in eastern Washington and, to a lesser extent, around Puget Sound.

Why Should I Care?

Leafy spurge is poisonous to some animals and unpalatable to most, and can cause blisters on humans. Low levels of infestation will discourage cows from grazing in a pasture. Leafy spurge also infests croplands, withstands cultivation, and may impact recreation areas.

How Can We Stop It?

  • Use certified weed-free seed and feed.
  • Clean vehicles, animals, and equipment that have traveled through infested or potentially infested areas.
  • Learn to identify this plant to be able to eradicate it when infestations are small.

Leafy spurge is on Washington’s Terrestrial Noxious Weed Seed and Plant Quarantine list, meaning it is prohibited to transport, buy, sell, offer for sale, or distribute leafy spurge plants, plant parts, or seeds. Leafy spurge also is listed as a Class B noxious weed in Washington, meaning it is designated for control in certain state regions.

What Are Its Characteristics?

  • Plants begin growing in early spring.
  • The stems, roots, and leaves exude a milky sap.
  • Stems are 1 1/2-3 feet tall.
  • Smooth-edged, yellow-green leaves. Leaves turn red in the fall and reach 3 inches in length.
  • Heart-shaped clusters of yellow flowers.

How Do I Distinguish It Form Native Species?

Leafy spurge may be distinguished by the milky latex found in all parts of the plant. It may be confused with other species. If you need help with plant identification, please contact your county noxious weed coordinator.

Additional Photographs