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Montana Field Guides

Leafy Spurge - Euphorbia esula

Noxious Weed: Priority 2B
Non-native Species

Global Rank: GNR
State Rank: SNA

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 0

External Links

General Description
Glabrous perennial with spreading roots. Stems erect, 30–80 cm. Leaves alternate, linear-oblanceolate, entire, 2–6 cm long. Inflorescence a terminal umbel with yellow-green, ovate bracts 8–16 mm long; solitary, bracteate cyathia in upper leaf axils. Cyathia 2–3 mm long, the 4 yellowish glands with a lunate appendage. Capsule ca. 4 mm long, nearly smooth (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
Euphorbia esula and its closely related taxa are native to central and eastern Europe with extensions into western Europe and temperate Asia. It is now found worldwide with the exception of Australia. It was most likely introduced into North America via Minnesota with shiploads of oats (Batho 1932).

Euphorbia esula is presently a major economic concern in the northwestern and north-central states of the United States and in the adjacent prairie regions of the provinces of Canada. States with the greatest infestations include Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 104253

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Grasslands, meadows, woodlands, riparian forest; plains, valleys (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).


  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Bakke, A.L. 1936. Leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula L. Iowa Agric. Exp. Stn. Res. Bull. 198:209-245.
    • Bartz, S., B. Landgraf, P. Fay, and K. Havstad. 1984. Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) as a forage component for ewes and lambs. Montana Agr. Exp. Sta. Journal Paper No. J-1495.
    • Best, K.F., G.G. Bowes, A.G. Thomas, and M.G. Maw. 1980. The biology of Canadian weeds. 39. Euphorbia esula L. Can. J. Plant Science 60:651-663.
    • Bowes, G.G., and A.G. Thomas. 1987. Longevity of leafy spurge seeds in the soil following various control programs. J. Range Management. 31:137-140.
    • Calvin, M. 1978. Greenfactories. Chem. and Eng. News 56:30-36.
    • Coupland, R.T., G.W. Selleck, and J.F. Alex. 1955. The reproductive capacity of vegetative buds on the underground parts of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) Can J. Agric. Sci. 35:477-484.
    • Dunn, P.H., and A. Radcliffe-Smith. 1980. The variability of leafy spurge (Euphorbia spp.) in the United States. North Central Weed Control Conf. Res. Rep., Vol. 37:48-53.
    • Hanson, H.C., and V.E. Rudd. 1933. Leafy spurge life history and habits. North Dakota Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 266. 24 pp.
    • Harris, P., P.H. Dunn, D. Schroeder, and R. Vonmoos. 1985. Biological control of leafy spurge in North America. Weed Sci. Sco. Amer. Monograph Series 3:79-92.
    • Lesica, P., M. T. Lavin, and P. F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Noble, D.L. 1980. Evidence of leafy spurge dispersal by birds. Weed Sci. Soc. Am. Newsletter 8(3):8.
    • Raju, M.V.S. 1975. Experimental studies on leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) I. Ontogeny and distribution of buds and shoots on the hypocotyl. Bot. Gaz. 136:254-261.
    • Selleck, G.W. 1958. Life history of leafy spurge. Proc. N.C. Weed. Cont. Conf. Pp. 16-17.
    • Selleck, G.W., R.T. Coupland, and C. Frankton. 1962. Leafy spurge in Saskatchewan. Ecolog. Monogr. 32:1-29.
    • Steenhagen, D.A., and R.L. Zomdahl. 1979. Allelopathy of leafy spurge. Weed Sci. 27:1-3.
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Citation for data on this website:
Leafy Spurge — Euphorbia esula.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from