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Leafy Spurge

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Leafy Spurge - Pre-flower Leafy Spurge  


  • Why should we care?
    • The leafy spurge is a threat primarily to moist and dry prairies and savannas, quickly displacing native plants. This plant rapidly invades primarily non-cropland disturbed environments, such as roadsides. It is tolerant of a wide range of habitats, from dry to moist, and sunny to semi-shade. It’s most aggressive in dry soil conditions where there is less competition from native plants. 
  • How to Identify
    • Perennial herbaceous plant, 2–3.5 inches tall, erect branching, smooth stems growing from a deep vertical root. Stems, flowers, and leaves emit a white milky sap when broken. The leaves are alternate, small, oblong to lance-shaped, on the upper part of stem; scale like on the lower part of the stem. The flowers are small, borne by showy yellow-green bracts which open in late May; flowers bloom from June into fall. Umbrella-shaped flower cluster, 7–10 , at the top of each stem, single, stemmed flowers grow from leaf axils below. The roots consist of an extensive deep root system, vegetative reproduction from crown and root buds. 
  • About the Plant and Where it came from
    • Euphorbia esula
    • Native to Europe and Asia that occurs across much of the northern U.S. in the grasslands and savannas of the Great Plains.
    • The leafy spurge has an explosive dispersal from a seed capsule up to 15 feet; high germination rate; seeds remain viable in the soil for 7 years. 
  • How to Control
    • Cultural control: Prescribed burning in conjunction with repeated treatment with glyphosate +2,4-D (one pint each per acre).
    • Chemical control: Imazapic (Plateau): Apply 1–1.3 oz/gallon water + 1oz/gallon water methylated seed oil (MSO) for spot treatment of 8–12 oz per acre + MSO in late September thru October when native plants have gone dormant and leafy spurge has a second flush of growth (test: milky sap still emits from broken stem).
    • Biological control: Root-boring beetle, four root-mining beetles, shoot-tip gall midge; grazing goats. 

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