P&PDL Picture of the Week for
December 7, 2009

Flowering Spurge

Glenn Nice, Weed Diagnostician, Department of Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University

Flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata L.) can be found in several counties in the state of Indiana.  It tends to be found in dry soils.  This specimen was found growing in sandy soils in Northern Indiana.  It is a native perennial that can grow up to 3 feet tall[1].   Stems are usually unbranched until the top where they do branch in an umbrella- or spoke-like pattern.  Leaves are sessile (attached at the stem without petioles), linear, oblong or oblong-spatulate, 0.8 to 1.6 inches long[1].  Lower leaves are alternate, but are whorled where the stem branches.  Flowers are loosely clustered on branched portion of plant and 0.25 to almost 0.5 inches wide.  Flowers have five white petal-like structures with green centers and can bloom most the summer long.

Like many spurges, these plants are considered toxic.  They contain a white latex sap that when the plant is damaged will exude from the plant.  This sap can irritate the skin, eyes and digestive tract causing stomach upset and diarrhea if ingested[2].  The toxic substances are phorbol esters[3]. 

Flowering spurge is not typically considered a weed.  In the case where I was introduced to flowering spurge it was a little troublesome because it was in fairly high numbers in an area that was to be converted into a pasture.  Control of flowering spurge is not a common issue so information regarding its control is lacking.

References:

1. N. Britton and A. Brown.   1970.  “An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada.”  Vol. II.  Second ed.  Dover Publications, INC. New York.  p 469.

2. J.W. McCain, R.J. Goetz and T.N. Jordan.  1985.  “Indiana Plants Poisonous to Livestock and Pets.”  Cooperative Extension Service, Purdue University.  WS-9.  p 77.

3. Plants Poisonous to Livestock.  Euphorbia spp.  Cornell University.  [http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/index.html]

Click image to enlarge

Flowering spurge

Flowering spurge

Flowering spurge

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service