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Leafy Spurge

Euphorbia esula Linnaeus
Synonym(s): spurge, wolf's milk, wolf's-milk
Kudzu Kudzu Leafy Spurge
Norman E. Rees, USDA Agricultural Research Service


Commodities Affected:
Forestry and Natural Areas



Leafy spurge is an erect, perennial herbaceous plant that grows from 2 to 3.5 feet tall. Leafy spurge is easily identified by its showy yellow flower bracts and the milky sap that flows if the stem is broken or a leaf is removed. Flower parts are in threes and the stem is smooth. Leaves are oval-shaped and smooth. Large infestations give the landscape a yellowish tinge due to the yellow bracts. Leafy spurge threatens prairies, grasslands, savannas, sand dunes and open woodlands. It can completely overtake large areas of land, displacing native vegetation.



In 100 Years of Change in the Distribution of Common Indiana Weeds by William and Edith Overlease (2002) reported that leafy spurge was found in Indiana in 1899 (Coulter’s Catalogue of Indiana Plants) in Gibson, Posey and Steuben counties.  Coulter noted that leafy spurge was reported “from the southwestern part of the state largely, so far as reports show”.  In 1940 (Deam’s Flora) leafy spurge was found in Marion and Starke counties and reported in Pulaski.  Deam noted that “if a colony of this pest is discovered no amount of effort or expense should be spared in order to exterminate it”. In 2002, Overlease reported leafy spurge in Fulton, Marion, Marshall, and Vermillion counties.  Overlease noted that “we have been on the lookout for this species, but have only found it four times”.