The Enemy – Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) is a weed that most of us will face. It is a very deep, up to 30 feet, perennial plant that spreads by creeping roots and can launch its seeds up to 15 feet. The seeds are mostly spread by small birds. In fact it can send up a runner from the root from as deep as 10 feet. It has a very distinct yellow/green color at the flower head, which can be most noticeable from long distances. The plant produces a milky juice throughout the entire plant. It has dark green narrow simple leaves that originate from the main stem. In the late summer the plant loses its leaves and leaves behind a red to orange stem. It is grows in dry areas and moist areas and non-disturbed areas and disturbed areas and ditch banks and roadsides and riparian areas and gardens and lawns.
The Attack – This plant is toxic to most animals that eat it. The milky juice is known to cause serious eye damage in humans and animals. It also can cause blisters around the lips of animals. The plant rapidly becomes a solid monoculture of which no other plants can invade. It can single handily take out desirable grasses, forbs and shrubs, and trees. Parts of Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas have lost thousands of acres of land to this nasty invader.
The Defense – This plant is extremely difficult to control due to its very extensive root system. It takes all the tools in our weed tool box to control it. Some have tried goats and sheep, others utilize insects, many utilize herbicides such as Tordon® 22K (RUP), Plateau in the fall, Banvel plus 2,4-D. The fact is, all these combined is best other than keeping it from invading.
PLEASE NOTE – The proper use and application of herbicides can be an effective way to control and eradicate noxious and invasive plants. Before using herbicides, always carefully follow the label and safety instructions on the label. While we recommend the use of herbicides as one of the effective tools for integrated pest management, the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign assumes no liability for herbicide applications.