Leafy Spurge

Leafy spurge stem showing sap.
Leafy spurge flower.
Leafy spurge seedling.
Leafy spurge plants.

Leafy Spurge

Euphorbia esula 

Colorado List B

Information Sheet (PDF)

Eradication Zone Map (pdf)


  • Contains toxins that may displace other plants
  • Deep-rooted, long-lived perennial
  • Extremely difficult to control
  • Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
  • Native Range: Europe and Asia


  • Displaces native vegetation
  • Found in disturbed sites, meadows, pastures, abandoned fields and roadside areas between 5,000 and 6,000 feet
  • Found in hot and cold climates
  • Prefers dry locations but can tolerate moisture
  • Will grow in many soil types



  • Contains a milky latex sap
  • Grows in dense patches
  • Leaves are 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and 1 to 4 inches long
  • Mature plants are 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet tall
  • Shoots develop from numerous stem and root buds and from seed
  • Stems are light green, hairless and turn reddish in the fall


  • Contain large food reserves
  • Plants will regrow after grazing or mechanical treatments
  • Vertical and horizontal
  • Vertical roots grow to depths of 30 feet; horizontal roots may grow 15 feet per year
  • Withstand periods of drought, grazing and herbicides


  • Color: yellowish-green
  • Dried seed pods explode and expel seeds up to 15 feet
  • Enclosed in two, heart-shaped bracts (modified leaves)
  • Flowers produce seed 45 to 55 days after bolting
  • Season: April to May but may continue until fall
  • Seeds are dispersed 4 to 6 weeks after flowering


  • Can remain viable for 8 or more years
  • Each stalk can produce 140 to 250 seeds


  • Can produce roots 3 feet deep and spread 40 inches laterally in 4 months
  • Germinates in early spring; peak germination is in May
  • Produces vegetative buds 10 to 12 days after germination
  • Rarely flowers the first year


  • Can reproduce from root fragments 1/2 inch long
  • Seed and vegetative


Biological - In Containment Zone ONLY

  • Aphthona spp., flea beetles
  • Hyles euphorbiae, Leafy spurge hawkmoth
  • Oberea erythrocephala, Red-headed Leafy spurge stem borer
  • Spurgia esulae, Leafy spurge tip gall midge
  • Works best as part of a IPM plan (May to August)



  • Intensive tilling
  • Prevention – maintain health of site
  • Promotion of healthy grass
  • Removal - not effective unless done within first year of growth and before seeds form
  • Reseeding


  • Burning - Ineffective if used alone.  May provide uniform regrowth for  more effective herbicide treatment.  May allow grasses to germinate and  provide competition
  • Grazing - Goats and sheep – short-term, intensive grazing is most  successful; must be repeated as plant regrow.  Cattle will not graze;  causes lesions around the eyes and mouth; irritates the digestive tract
  • Mowing - Ineffective if used alone.  May provide regrowth for more  effective herbicide treatment.  May allow grasses to germinate and  provide competition

More Information

Use all chemicals according to the manufacturer's label. No specific recommendation or endorsement is made or implied by listing methods or products.

 Treatment Timeline


RemovalNot recommended - plants regrow from root fragments