Euphorbia virgata (Leafy Spurge)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||sun; fields, along roads, disturbed soil|
|Bloom season:||May - September|
|Plant height:||1 to 2 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flat to rounded cluster at the top of the stem, the main cluster branches radiating from the stem tip; each branch may be forked 1 or more times. Smaller clusters often arise from the upper leaf axils. Individual flowers have a pair of ¼-inch round to heart-shaped, green to yellowish bracts that may look like petals. In the center are 4 tiny flat glands with a pointed projection on each end, somewhat horn-like. Under the glands are the globular ovaries. The glands are greenish to yellowish to orangeish; the ovaries are green.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are alternate, 1 to 3 inches long, lance-linear, pointed at the tip, toothless, hairless, stalkless, and often become larger as they ascend the stem, with the lowest leaves very short or scale-like. Stems are single or multiple from the base, erect to ascending, hairless, branched or not, the branches (when present) mostly ascending, non-flowering, and leafier than the main stem. Plants form colonies from spreading rhizomes.
Leafy Spurge is on the noxious weed list for Minnesota and can be hard to eradicate, though several biocontrols are available that can knock a population back pretty effectively after a several years of treatment. Leafy Spurge is similar to the also-weedy Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias), which has similar flowers but is generally a smaller plant with narrower leaves, and often with a few short, widely spreading, leafy branches on the upper stem where Leafy Spurge branches, when present, are more ascending and tend to be lower on the stem. According to Flora of North America, North American populations of Leafy Spurge were long thought to be Euphorbia esula, but that was a misapplication of that name and it's more appropriately treated as Euphorbia virgata.
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- Leafy Spurge plants
- a small colony of Leafy Spurge
- a dense colony of Leafy Spurge
- forked cluster branches
- biocontrol Hyles euphorbiae (leafy spurge hawk moth) caterpillar
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?