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Leafy Spurge

Leafy Spurge is a perennial standing 2-3 ½’tall with smooth stems branching out from a deep vertical root. When stems, flowers, and leaves are broken, a milky-white sap is released. Leafy spurge is an invasive species that is native to Eurasia and is on the control list in Minnesota as a designated MDA Prohibited noxious weed. Therefore, the sale, propagation, or transportation of leafy spurge is not allowed in an effort to prevent seed maturation and spreading of leafy spurge into new areas. Leafy spurge is also toxic to livestock.

Spurge Foliage:
On the upper part of the stem, Leafy Spurge leaves are small, oblong, or lance-shaped. On the lower part of the stem, the leaves are scale-like. The simple leaves are alternate, bluish-grey/green in color, and about ¼” wide with smooth margins.

Spurge Flowers:
Leafy Spurge bloom primarily in May and June and have small, showy yellow-green bracts that open around late May. They continue to produce flowers from June through August and seeds from July to September. Individual, umbrella-shaped flowers form clusters of 7-10 at the top of each stem. The invasiveness comes from buds that produce up to 140 seeds with each plant having the capacity to produce about 130,000 seeds. These seeds are then emitted after the capsule bursts. This process resembles an explosion that can lead to the seeds spreading up to 15’ away from the original plant.

Spurge Roots:
Leafy Spurge have a dense and extensive root system consisting of vast numbers of coarse, fine roots that occupy large volumes of soil. The roots are most plentiful in the top foot of soil, yet some roots can reach a depth of 15’ or more. The vegetative reproduction is from the crown and root buds that can reproduce from seeds or underground roots.

Treatment for Spurge:
Leafy Spurge can effectively be reduced by using repeated herbicide applications in the early spring and fall. From 1994 to present, about 9 million leafy spurge beetles (Apthona lacertosa) were released at over 2,000 Minnesota sites as a biological control. This process of using beetles to control leafy spurge has been overwhelmingly cost-effective and successful resulting in greatly reduced infestations at most sites. This collaborative effort between public and private managers in conjunction with County Agricultural Inspectors and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture continues to control spurge by using leafy spurge beetles.

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