Invasive Species -


Leafy spurge, Wolf’s milk
(Euphorbia esula L. )


Photos & Description courtesy of IPANE

Where it's from

Central and Eastern Europe


What Leafy spurge / Wolf’s milk do to the habitat

Dense growth reduces diversity and displaces native species. The plant is poisonous to cattle and reduces value of rangeland. The plant also exudes chemicals from roots that deter growth of native species.



Be cautious and wear gloves as the sap can be a skin irritant. One biological control element is the leafy spurge flea beetle.


Grazing by sheep and goats is another solution as well as with burning, tilling and mowing.


Common Name

Full Scientific Name

Leafy spurge Euphorbia esula L.

Family Name Common

Family Scientific Name

Spurge family Euphorbia esula


Botanical Glossary

Euphorbia esula is an herbaceous perennial that can reach a height of 30-70 cm (1-2.25 ft.). It is a colonial plant that has strong roots. The leaves and stems of the plant are bluish-green in color. The leaves are linear to lance-linear in shape and measure 3-8 cm (1.25-3 in.) long and 3-8 mm (0.1-0.3 in.) wide; they are alternate in their arrangement. The leaves that are just below the umbel are shorter and broader and are lanceolate to ovate in shape. The bracts of the umbel are opposite in arrangement and are broadly cordate to reniform in shape. When this plant is damaged, it exudes white latex. The flowers are borne in umbels. The flowers themselves are inconspicuous and contained within the larger yellow-green bracts, which form a cup-like structure called a cyathium. The bracts are rounded with pointed tips. The small flowers are arranged in the bract with four reduced staminate flowers on the outside and one pistilate (female) flower in the center. The bracts open in late May to early June, while the flowers themselves do not open until late June. Often below the main umbel of the plant there are smaller umbels that are borne from the upper leaf axils. The plants produce capsules that contain 1 seed in each chamber. The mottled brown seeds are ovoid in shape and 2 mm (0.07 in.) long. Page References Fernald 968, Gleason & Cronquist 338, Holmgren 317, Magee & Ahles 703, Newcomb 408, Peterson & McKenny 162,374.

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