Euphorbia esula (Leafy Spurge)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
  • Noxious Weed
  • Prohibited or Restricted species
Habitat:sun; fields, along roads, disturbed soil
Bloom season:May - September
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat or convex clusters of inconspicuous 1/8-inch yellowish-green flowers with a pair of larger yellowish-green bracts that may look like round petals. A single plant may have several clusters on branching stems in the upper part of the plant.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Narrow leaves 1 to 3 inches long, toothless, hairless, pointed at the tip; alternately attached with no leaf stem but may be whorled near the flowers. The main stem is smooth and green.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a 3-parted capusle about 1/8 in diameter, each part containing a single seed.


Leafy Spurge is on the noxious weed list for Minnesota and can be hard to eradicate. A similar species is Cypress Spurge (E. cyparissias), which has similar flowers but is generally a smaller plant with leaves smaller, more crowded on the stem and needle-like. In some references, Leafy Spurge goes by the synonym Euphorbia virgata.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Lisa R - Nevis (north central)
on: 2009-08-20 14:14:17

I've noticed a few of these along the Heartland Trail. I remember years ago when we were warned about this as a noxious weed, but I'm not seeing a lot of them now. Despite their noxious nature, they're a pretty little plant. (I think!)

Posted by: Meredith - Shoreview
on: 2010-05-06 18:21:33

This plant is all over the hill behind my house. I believe there is also Cyprus Spurge inter-mixed as well but I haven't found any that have bloomed yet.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-05-10 17:39:15

I think Cypress spurge starts blooming about a month before leafy spurge does. If you see blooms now it is more likely Cypress spurge, but you could easily have both.

Posted by: Elaine - Brainerd
on: 2010-06-11 22:34:17

This is growing around the lake at Kiwanis Park in Brainerd - didn't know what it was until I found this site.

Posted by: TJ - Andover
on: 2011-05-24 08:51:59

I have leafy spurge that I have treated with an insect that I received from the MN Department of Agriculture. We have an acre of land that is left to grow naturally. A neighbor had a large patch growing in her yard and wouldn't do anything about it when I told her it was a MN noxious weed. I couldn't find anywhere to report this so she would kill it. It naturally moved to my property. I can't really tell how successful the insects have been but the MDA tells me that as long as there is spurge, the insects will stay around.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-24 10:36:21

I believe leafy spurge is one of the three species for which MN has a biological control at this time. The other two are spotted knapweed and purple loosestrife. Garlic mustard may be coming soon.

As I understand it, while the bio agents can make a dent in the weed population, they won't likely eradicate it, and if they do it will take a number of years. So you'll probably have leafy spurge for a long time. :-(

Posted by: TJ - Andover
on: 2013-07-14 22:58:36

Hi, I submitted a comment in May 2011 about the leafy spurge on my property and the bio agents that I received from the DOA. Well, I don't know if the bugs are still here are not but the Euphorbia ensula has spread along with the crown vetch that also was gifted to me by the same neighbor. The saddest part, is that the native prairie plants that used to be there is no longer obvious. There really needs to be some State area that could help educate people when called upon. Thanks, TJ

Posted by: Deb - Saint Francis
on: 2014-06-06 14:34:33

I have a garden full of Cypress Spurge that is getting out of control. I got it from someone that referred to it a type of sedum. I will have to get after this stuff. Any suggestions other than pulling? How well did the insects work?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-06-06 19:28:17

Deb, the bio control is for leafy spurge and may not work on Cypress spurge. Regardless, you should be able to control Cypress spurge (more or less) just by pulling.

Posted by: Lois - Swing Bridge Park, Inver Grove Heights
on: 2015-06-01 22:54:03

Colony upon Colony along trail down to river to bridge.

Posted by: Brittany - Woodbury (Washington County)
on: 2015-07-10 10:55:50

First saw this plant on our property last year with three or four stalks right along the fenceline. It was the most beautiful bright green, highly unusual from most other sorts of plants, and I identified it as this. Forgot to remove it last year but then just dug it up as deeply as I could last night. There were still only four stalks, but two or three more on our neighbor's property on the other side of the fence. Such a neat, pretty plant...pity it had to go!

Posted by: Ellen S.
on: 2016-10-29 16:12:33

Info on getting the biocontrol insects:

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