Vail weed of the week: Leafy spurge shoots seeds |

Vail weed of the week: Leafy spurge shoots seeds

Gregg Barrie
Vail, CO Colorado
Gregg Barrie/Special to the Vail DailyLeafy spurge in bloom near Vail, Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula ) is native to Eurasia, this is one of the most serious weeds in Vail, Colorado and the northern United States, causing millions of dollars in crop losses and control costs. Maximum effort should be used to prevent the spread of this escaped ornamental throughout Eagle County


• Perennial plant 1 to 3-inches tall with clusters of small, yellowish-green flowers on each stem appearing in mid-summer.

• Leaves are 1 to 4-inches long, narrow, smooth and hairless.

• Reproduces mostly through its root system, but also by seed.

• Roots can grow up to 15-feet laterally and 30-feet deep.

• One plant can produce 250 seeds of which 99 percent will germinate within the first two years. Leafy Spurge can shoot its seeds up to 15-feet away from the parent plant.

• All parts of the plant exude milky latex that can cause burns and irritation to the skin.

• Invades rangeland making it worthless for grazing. Toxic to horses and livestock causing skin sensitivity, burns and colic.

• Capable of displacing native plants and produce a highly successful monoculture by producing a compounds that hinder the growth of other plants.


• The root system of this plant is extensive and deep. New plants can emerge from root buds at any depth making control very difficult.

• Hand pulling and mowing are ineffective in controlling this plant. In fact, it can often result in an increase in the number of plants.

• There are several species of insects that are being tested to control Leafy Spurge. Although there are some successful species, other species of insects have problems with their mouthparts getting clogged with the milky sap of the Spurge.

• Currently, the only effective control measure is to treat the patch with an herbicide. Contact Eagle County Weed and Pest or a license applicator for herbicide recommendations.

• If you find this plant on public land, immediately notify the land manager. If you find this plant on private land, notify the property owner.

• Maintaining healthy native plant communities is the best way to prevent the establishment of noxious weeds. Leafy Spurge invades disturbed and bare areas so proper revegetation is critical to controlling this plant as well as other noxious weed species.

For more information on these plants and the Weed Management Programs in Eagle County visit or, or call Eagle County Weed and Pest Department, 970-328-3540, Town of Vail Department of Public Works (970) 479-2158, or Eagle County Extension Office 970-328-8630.

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