Facts About Leafy Spurge

Facts About Leafy Spurge

As discussed below, leafy spurge uses explosive seed release, and wind,  to throw seeds up to 15 feet. In addition to spreading by seed, its root systems increase by several feet each year, and the roots put up shoots. Chemicals are ineffective in controlling this plant, and cattle cannot eat it.


However, it is high in protein, and the preferred food of goats.


NOTE: this article was originally published to SoftSchools.com


Leafy Spurge Facts


Leafy spurge is a plant that belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. This plant originates from Europe and Asia. It has been introduced to North America at the beginning of the 19th century. Ever since that period, Americans try to eradicate this plant without success. Leafy spurge inhabits pastures, rangelands, grasslands, prairies and areas near the roads. It reproduces quickly, easily conquers new habitats and eliminates native species of plants. Commercially available herbicides are usually ineffective against this plant. Leafy spurge is not on the menu of many animals because it produces toxic substances. Luckily, toxins of leafy spurge do not affect all animals. Certain grazers and beetles are used as biological weapon against this weed.

Interesting Leafy Spurge Facts:

  • Leafy spurge is herbaceous plant which develops few upright stems. They can reach 2.5 to 3 feet in height.
  • Leaves of leafy spurge are small, usually 1.5 to 3 inches long. They are oval or lanceolate in shape and wavy on the edges.
  • Leafy spurge develops extremely strong root that can grow 26 feet in depth. Lateral roots can spread 15 feet horizontally.
  • Flowers of leafy spurge are miniature, yellow-green in color and surrounded with modified yellow leaves called bracts. Individual flowers are gathered in umbrella-shaped inflorescence called umbel. Flowers develop during the spring.
  • Each flower bud produces up to 140 seeds, while each plant produces around 130 000 seeds. Seeds are released after bursting of the capsule. This process resembles explosion and leads to spreading of seeds 15 feet away from the mother plant.
  • Seed can remain dormant up to 8 years before it starts to germinate under appropriate weather conditions.
  • Cattle, birds and other animals that inhabit grassy habitats facilitate dispersal of the seed. Humans can transfer seeds from one location on another by carrying the seeds on their cloths and agricultural machines. Besides terrestrial routes, seeds can be dispersed by water.
  • Except via seed, leafy spurge can propagate via vertical and horizontal parts of the root.
  • Leafy spurge often lives in symbiosis (mutually beneficial relationship) with fungi. Fungi provide all required nutrients and ensure survival of leafy spurge even on infertile soils.
  • Leafy spurge produces toxins which prevent development of other nearby plants.
  • All parts of the leafy spurge contain white milky sap which is toxic for most domestic animals. Some animals, such as sheep and goats, consume it without visible side effects.
  • Humans will experience skin irritation, swelling and formation of blisters after exposure to the milky sap of leafy spurge.
  • Certain countries eliminate leafy spurge from the pastures with the help of sheep and goats.
  • Another way to eliminate leafy spurge from the ground is to use flea beetles which feed on the root and leaves of leafy spurge.
  • Leafy spurge is perennial plant which means that it can survive more than 2 years in the wild.
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