What early blooming, succulent-like plant looks at home in a sunny Colorado rock garden but is really an obnoxious invader?
Myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)!
If you live along the Front Range, you’re probably seeing it blooming in your neighborhood about now. This is a List A noxious weed and is designated by the Colorado Noxious Weed Act for eradication. If you have this growing in your yard, you are required to remove it.
Myrtle spurge is a perennial that grows up to 12 inches high and 12 to 18 inches wide. The blue-green leaves contrast with the yellow-green bracts (the flowers are inconspicuous) that appear from April to May.
Native to Eurasia, myrtle spurge easily escapes gardens and invades our natural areas, out-competing native plants. It spreads by launching its ripe seed up to 15 feet. The seed is viable in the soil for up to eight years. So, best to pull it before it sets seed or you could be pulling for eight years!
But wait! Before you pull, put on some gloves because the plant contains a milky sap that can blister your skin. Rubber gloves are recommended. The plant is poisonous if ingested.
Two years ago, myrtle spurge appeared in my front yard and at first I was delighted to see something so unusual taking root. But I was suspicious. I watched it grow and once it “bloomed” I new what it was and yanked it. Since then, I’ve been seeing it more frequently in our neighborhood. One neighbor has it taking over an entire garden bed in her backyard. She’s been trying to get rid of it for years.
If you want to help eliminate this invader, join the “Purge Your Spurge” event in Boulder this Saturday, May 10, 2014. Take bags of myrtle spurge to 6400 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder, and you’ll receive a free native plant!
I think our native Eriogonum umbellatum (sulpher flower) is a better choice anyway!
For more information on myrtle spurge, see the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Fact Sheet.