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Leafy spurge is an invasive species.
- Leafy spurge is tolerant of a wide range of conditions, from dry to moist and sunny to shade.
- It is found in roadsides and non-cropland disturbed environments.
- Very aggressive in dry soils where there is less native plant competition.
- It displaces native plants in moist to dry prairies and savannas.
- Milky sap is toxic to livestock.
Leafy spurge should be reported. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides detailed recommendations for reporting invasive species.
How to identify leafy spurge
- Perennial herbaceous plant, two to four feet tall.
- Stems, flowers and leaves emit a white milky sap when broken.
- Erect, smooth stems branch at the top.
- On the lower part of the stem, one to four inch leaves are smooth and lance shaped; more ovate near flower.
- Small, showy, yellow-green bracts open in late May.
- Forms umbrella-shaped flower clusters with seven to ten flowers at the top of each stem; single, stemmed flowers grow from leaf axils below.
- Blooms June to fall.
Three-lobed green capsule about one eighth of an inch diameter.
The fruit is covered in minute bumps, giving a grainy texture; each lobe contains a single seed.
- Oval-elliptic, two to three mm long, pale to dark brown or yellow-brown with a distinct seam down one side and a fleshy appendage near attachment to stalk.
- Three-lobed brown-mottled capsule.
- Explosive dispersal from a seed capsule up to 20 feet; high germination rate
- Seeds survive in the soil for ten years.
- Extensive, deep root system.
- Vegetative reproduction from crown and root buds.
Reviewed in 2019