Thursday, April 23, 2015

Myrtle Spurge by Sandy Hollingsworth

If you are like most gardeners and homeowners you don’t want uninvited obnoxious guests. Myrtle Spurge is a noxious weed which can take over your yard and open spaces. It also has a latex sap which is toxic to children, adults and pets. It was introduced as an ornamental plant and now is an interesting plant gone bad! Thanks to the efforts of Colorado residents and volunteers, it’s getting closer to being eliminated. You can help by learning how to identify it, get rid of it, or report it to have others catch it. If you like something similar in your garden you might try a native plant Kannah Creek Sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum) or a sedum which attracts bees and pollinators.

Myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is a List A noxious weed, and the Colorado Noxious Weed Act requires its eradication. Other states may not have issues with it but have their own lists of noxious weeds. Nurseries are not to sell it in Colorado. Some cities like Lafayette fine homeowners who have it on their property.

Hand pulling and digging up Myrtle spurge are most effective. Always wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection when pulling and bagging myrtle spurge and don’t add it to compost. The toxic, milky sap causes severe skin irritations, including blistering. Stories are told of children going to the emergency room after contact with the sap then rubbing their eyes or face. This plant is poisonous if ingested, causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. All plant parts are considered poisonous.
This invasive weed, is a low-growing perennial with trailing fleshy stems. It spreads rapidly and has escaped to natural areas crowding out native plants and food for wildlife. The leaves are fleshy, blue-green and alternate. The flowers appear from March to May and are bright yellow-green with petal-like bracts. Myrtle spurge is commonly found in Denver, Boulder County, Golden and the surrounding lands and has become a serious problem in the foothills and mountain ecosystems.

Multiple “Purge Your Spurge” events will take place on Saturdays this spring for residents to bring in bags of Myrtle spurge and receive free native plants or seed in exchange.
April 25: Jefferson County and City of Golden at the Jefferson County Human Services Lot at 900 Jefferson County Parkway from 9am - 2pm.
May 2: City of Boulder at Resource, 6400 Arapahoe from 9am - noon.
May 16: Denver Natural Area at the CSU Extension Denver, 888 East Iliff from 9am - noon.
June 6: Denver City Park Greenhouse, 1440 Kearney from 9am - noon.  
For more information on Myrtle spurge, please visit or and search “myrtle spurge”. Jim Krick with City of Longmont was also a source for this information. For information on Wild Lands Restoration Volunteer help with removal, email Morgan Crowley at

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