Common Name: Leafy Spurge
Scientific Name: Euphorbia esula L.
Related Species: Cypress spurge, Euphorbia cyparissias L.
Efforts must be made to prevent seed maturation and dispersal of plants into new areas. Additionally, no transportation, propagation, or sale of these plants is allowed. Failure to comply may result in enforcement action by the county or local municipality. Minnesota Noxious Weed Law.
Leafy spurge is native to Eurasia and has become widespread throughout the United States. It was introduced to Minnesota in 1890 as seed in a bushel of oats from Russia. By 1992, it was estimated that there were 800,000 infested acres in the central, northern, and western parts of the state, in addition to the Twin Cities area. In response, approximately 9 million leafy spurge beetles (Aphthona lacertosa) were released at over 2,000 sites in Minnesota from 1994 to the present as a biological control. Biological control with the beetles has been overwhelmingly cost-effective and successful at greatly reducing infestations at most sites. The use of beetles to control spurge continues to be a collaborative effort with public and private land managers, County Agricultural Inspectors, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).
Leafy spurge is an invader of pastures, grasslands, prairies, and roadsides. It grows in full to part sun in a wide range of soil types, from dry to moist.
Each plant can produce large clumps of shoots from extensive underground stems and roots allowing the weed to overtake other vegetation quickly. In addition, leafy spurge also produces seed that explodes from the seedpods and can travel up to 20 feet. The seed is durable and can remain viable up to 10 years. Leafy spurge can disperse by wildlife, wind, water, vehicles, contaminated soil and hay. Disturbances such as road construction create opportunities for leafy spurge to spread along roadways and into agricultural and natural areas.
Leafy spurge is distributed across the northern half of the United States. Northwestern states have long battled vast infestations. Leafy spurge is reported in all Minnesota counties with the largest infestations in western Minnesota. View leafy spurge distribution in Minnesota.
Once a stand of leafy spurge becomes established, it reduces pasture or grassland productivity. If leafy spurge is present in a hayfield, the hay cannot be cut and moved, resulting in economic loss. Infestations can displace native plants and reduce wildlife habitat.
Leafy spurge is toxic to cattle and horses. These animals avoid leafy spurge unless no other forage is available.
MDA Noxious Weed Program
County Ag Inspectors