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Hotchkiss, CO 81419



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Myrtle spurge

Euphorbia myrsinites


Keys to Identification

  • This perennial weed is often found in rock gardens and is moving into natural areas where it has the potential to do enormous environmental damage.


  • Although easily removed by hand, this member of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), contains a milky sap that is caustic to skin and eyes.


  • Blue-green leaves clasp fleshy stems which trail along the ground. Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers are surrounded by heart shaped bracts

This information courtesy of the Colorado Natural Areas Program


Family: Spurge (Euphorbiaceae)


Other Names: creeping spurge, donkeytail




Legal Status: Colorado Noxious Weed List A




Lifecycle: Perennial


Growth form: Forb


Flower: Yellow-green flower-like bracts appear in early spring.


Seeds/Fruit: Hard, round.


Leaves: The plant produces trailing stems of fleshy, blue-green alternate leaves.


Stems: Mature plants are 4-6 in tall and spread up to 18 in laterally.


Roots: Taproot.


Seedling: No information available.


Other: The plant exudes a milky sap that can be irritating to the skin.



Similar Species

Exotics: Non-flowering stems may sometimes be mistaken for Dalmatian toadflax.


Natives: None known.




Agricultural: Myrtle spurge plants exude a milky sap that is considered toxic and may cause skin irritations and in extreme cases, livestock poisoning. Livestock and animals generally avoid myrtle spurge and large infestations can reduce forage production. Myrtle spurge does not tolerate frequent cultivation and therefore is not a problem in crops.


Ecological: Can inhabit disturbed ground and exclude native plants in remote rocky locations.


Human: Milky latex can cause skin irritation.



Habitat and Distribution

General requirements: Myrtle spurge prefers dry to moist, well-drained soils, in areas that receive partial shade to full sun. It is mainly an escaped ornamental that inhabits disturbed areas and waste places.


Historical: Native to Eurasia.




Life cycle: Myrtle spurge is a perennial that produces new stems from the center (tap root) each year. Plants flower in early spring.


Mode of reproduction: Seed.





Stahevitch, A.E., C.W. Crompton, and W.A. Wojtas. The biology of Canadian weeds. 85. Euphorbia cyparissias L. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 68:175-191.


Whitson, T.D.(ed.), L.C. Burrill, S.A. Dewey, D.W. Cudney, B.E. Nelson, R.D. Lee, R. Parker. 1996. Euphorbia spp. Weeds of the West. Western Society of Weed Science, in cooperation with the Western United States Land Grant Universities Cooperative Extension Services, Newark CA. pg. 312.


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