Vectors of Spread:
General: Cypress Spurge is a perennial that is most easily recognized by its flowers.
Flowers: Small, greenish-yellow flowers, clustered into a bowl-like involucre (whorl/rosette).
Stem: Can grow to be between 15cm to 30cm, and are branch-less.
Leaves: Alternate and are almost stalk-less. Branch leaves are needle-like and are narrower than the stem leaves.
Seeds: Are 3 mm long, grooved and oval shaped with a grey colouring.
Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) is often confused with Cypress Spurge, as it is a perennial which can grow up to 0.8 m tall with greenish-yellow flowers and leaves that are spirally arranged on the stem. Like Cypress Spurge, it contains a white milky latex that can be toxic to humans and livestock. Both spurges are invasive.
Habitat and Origin
Cypress Spurge was brought to North America from Europe as a garden ornamental.
It can be found growing along dry, gravelly roadsides, in meadows and pastures and thrives in open, disturbed areas.
Propagation and Vectors of Spread
Cypress Spurge reproduces predominantly by seed and vegetatively. Roots may form new, genetically identical plants by horizontally creeping rhizomes that grow outward and send up clones from the parent plant. Plants can also regenerate from root fragments and have a rapid regeneration time.
Cypress Spurge can be locally spread by vegetative reproduction through root systems, but long distance dispersal occurs through the transport of seeds via wind, water, humans and animals.
Economic and Ecological Impacts
- Destroys native grasslands biodiversity.
- Displaces wildlife and livestock by eliminating forage areas due to dense colonies.
- Crowds out pastures.
- Decreases moisture and nutrients in soils.
- Contains a milky latex that can irritate skin of humans and irritate skin and mouths of livestock.
- Reduces the abundance of desired vegetation and reduces cattle grazing and hay production capacities.
What Can I Do?
The best approach to controlling the spread of Cypress Spurge is PREVENTION.
Learn to identify Cypress Spurge: use the images presented in this profile page.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Cypress Spurge sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Ensure soil and gravel is uncontaminated before transport.
- Minimize soil disturbances (e.g. use grazing plans that prevent soil exposure from overgrazing), and use seed mixes with dense, early colonization (e.g. alfalfa or barley) to re-vegetate exposed soil and resist invasion.
- Minimize soil disturbance in area surrounding infestation.
- Ensure plants (particularly flowering heads or root fragments) are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites (e.g. landfill).
- Plant Cypress Spurge in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Move soil that has been contaminated with Cypress Spurge.
- Unload, park, or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles, or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Mow or weed-whack Cypress Spurge, as the fragments can propagate as new colonies. Frequent mowing may also accelerate shoot development, leading plants to spread laterally from the parent plant
Regular mowing or tilling to reduce weed progression can adequately control the first bloom; however, this can also stimulate new growth. If attempting to control Cypress Spurge mechanically, it is important to consistently mow the area (approx. every 21 days).
Picloram on small infestations, or a combination of picloram and 2,4-D applied before flowers emerge. Alternatively, annual applications of dicamba and 2.4-D, or monthly applications of glyphosate. However, note that picloram is not suitable for wet coastal soils.
We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
Flea beetle (Aphthona cyparissiae), grazing by sheep and goats.
Government of British Columbia, Leafy Spurge, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasive-species/identify/invasive-plants/leafy-spurge/
Lillooet Regional Invasive Species Society, Cypress Spurge, https://lriss.ca/species/cypress-spurge
U.S.. Forest Service, Fire Effects Information Systems: Euphorbia Cyparissias, https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/eupcyp/all.html#FIRE%20EFFECTS%20AND%20MANAGEMENT