Euphorbia marginata (Snow-on-the-mountain)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry prairies, fields. roadsides, railroads
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat clusters at the tips of branching stems in the upper plant. Flower structures are about 3/8 inch across with mostly 5 white (sometimes 3 or 4), petal-like appendages, each having a green, oblong to kidney-shaped gland at the base. In the center are numerous, tiny male flowers with yellow-green stamens, surrounding a single green female flower with an arcing, divided style.

[photo of bracts] At the base of a cluster are 2 or more leafy bracts with a broad band of white edging, sometimes entirely white. The calyx is densely hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 3½ inches long and to 1½ inches wide, toothless, hairless or sparsely hairy, oblong to elliptical, pointed at the tip, rounded at the base, and stalkless. Attachment is alternate except in the flowering branches, where they may be opposite or whorled.

[photo of stem hairs] Stems are unbranched except in the flower clusters, light green, hairless or nearly so in the lower plant, often with long, spreading hairs in the upper plant. Stems contain a milky sap that can be very irritating to skin.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round to egg-shaped, 3-sectioned capsule, about 1/8 inch long, covered in short hairs, each section containing one seed. The capsule dries to dark gray.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are 3.7 to 3.9 mm long, oval to egg-shaped to nearly round, with a conspicuous brown ridge down one side. Color is variable, from nearly white to gray to orange-tan. The surface texture is a fine network, with or without scattered ridges that give a bumpy texture.


Snow-on-the-mountain is primarily a Great Plains species, considered introduced east of Minnesota and west of the Rocky Mountains, where its known to escape cultivation and become weedy. It is easy to identify with the white-edged leafy bracts around the flower clusters.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Renville County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Robyn - Big Sand Lake, Park Rapids
on: 2016-06-03 13:52:13

I'm asking if it's ok to plant Snow-on-the-Mountain 3-4 feet above our shoreline? We have a rather steep hill and have been sowing wildflower seeds for the last eight years but would like to transplant some Snow plants we have in Fargo. However, we don't want to introduce something that would be unhealthy to our ecosystem. Could you advise us, please? Thank you!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-06 11:32:47

"Snow on the mountain" is a common name that applies to both the native Euphorbia marginata and to the variegated leaf form of the non-native and invasive Aegopodium podagraria. The first is an annual that is found in dry prairies and grows from seed each year. The second is a perennial with creeping rhizomes that will eventually smother everything else. Please don't plant that one.

Posted by: Zerfas
on: 2018-03-19 20:44:01

These plants are beautiful and will grow in the poorest soil. To be used with caution as they are toxic. Some people are more sensitive than others. Can cause burns of the skin and in extreme cases can even cause blindness.

I am talking about cases where the flowers have been picked and carried around as in a wedding ceremony. The bride had to be taken to the emergency room immediately after the ceremony in her wedding gown. After treatment, had to attend the reception in her jammies. The E.R. doctor said the blindness could have been permanent but thankfully was not in her case

While these plants are beautiful..must be used with caution. This bride had no clue she had picked and was carrying poison.. All they knew, was that she became sicker by the minute. An extreme case, yes. Awareness is the key.

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