Spurge Laurel (aka Daphne Laurel)
Vectors of spread:
General: Spurge Laurel is a medium-sized evergreen woody shrub (0.5-1.8 m) with glossy, green foliage. All parts of the Spurge Laurel plant are poisonous, so caution must be exercised around the plant.
Stems: Immature stems are green, but they turn yellow-grey once they are mature.
Leaves: The leaves on this evergreen, bushy shrub are alternate and oval; they taper at the base. Spurge Laurel leaves are dark green and glossy, between 4 and 13 cm long.
Flowers: Flowers present as small clusters of pale green to yellow flowers, each with 4 cylindrical, spreading lobes.
Fruit: Spurge Laurel flowers mature into black, egg-shaped drupes (berries) that are 8-11 mm long.
Caution: All parts of Spurge Laurel are poisonous. The plant contains a sap that causes skin irritation, swelling of the tongue, and coma.
Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a non-native, non-invasive ornamental which has wider, finely-toothed leaves and long cylindrical inflorescences.
Habitat and Origin
A native to Europe, Southwestern Asia, Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, Spurge Laurel was introduced to Southern and Coastal BC as a garden ornamental. It can be found along roadsides and moist wooded areas. It is shade tolerant, so it will grow in sunny or shaded areas, and does not require soil to be disturbed in order to spread.
Propagation and Vectors of Spread
Spurge Laurel plants begin producing seeds after 4 years of growth. Berries emerge shortly after flowers bloom, and the seeds can produce new plants. The seeds are often spread by birds and rodents who eat the berries but can’t digest the seeds.
Spurge Laurel can also spread vegetatively through lateral roots.
Economic and Ecological Impacts
- Outcompetes native plants due to rapid spread (up to 5.5 m per season for a single plant) and dense patches.
- Blocks sunlight and competes with native plants for water and nutrients
- Especially problematic in riparian areas.
- While decaying, may release toxic chemicals that inhibit germination of other plant species.
- It poses a threat to native ecosystems, including Douglas fir forests and Garry oak woodlands.
Impacts on human health:
- All parts of the Spurge Laurel plant are highly toxic, including berries, leaves, stem, bark and sap. The sap is toxic, and can cause skin rashes, nausea, swelling of the tongue, and coma. One fatality of a child in Nova Scotia has been linked to the consumption of its berries.
What Can I Do?
Spurge Laurel has been found in some sites in Squamish and south, so PREVENTION and ERADICATION are key:
- Do not purchase, trade, or grow Spurge Laurel; choose regional native plants that are naturally adapted to the local environment and are non-invasive.
- Ensure plants (particularly flowering heads or root fragments) are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites (e.g., landfill).
- Monitor disturbed and undisturbed sites for invasive plants, including Spurge Laurel.
- Don’t 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.
- Wearing protective gear (waterproof gloves, rubber raincoat and pants, eye protection, and possibly a respirator), hand-pull small plants or dig out larger ones.
- Plant material must be bagged and taken to a landfill or incinerated (DO NOT COMPOST).
- Monitor area for any new seedlings and cover with deep mulch.
- See WorksafeBC for more information on how to protect yourself from Spurge Laurel.
- During any time from bud to late blooming stage, plants may be spot-sprayed until leaves and stems are wet with a product containing triclopyr (in accordance with the conditions listed on the label).
- Note that there is potential to injure nearby broadleaf plants when using triclopyr.
- ‘In most cases, you, or the person you hire must be certified to apply herbicides in BC. Please refer to current rules and regulations about using pesticides in BC here
There are currently no known biological agents for Spurge Laurel.
4-County Cooperative Weed Management Area, Spurge Laurel Factsheet, https://4ccwma.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/ipm_18_spurgelaurel_2.pdf
East Multnomah Soil Water Conservation District, Weeds to Know: Spurge Laurel, https://emswcd.org/on-your-land/weeds/weeds-to-know/spurge-laurel/
E-Flora, Spurge Laurel, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Daphne%20laureola
Invasive Species of British Columbia, Weed of the Week: Spurge Laurel, https://bcinvasives.ca/news-events/media/articles/weed-of-the-week-daphne-spurge-laurel/
King County Noxious Weed Control Board, Spurge Laurel Identification and Control, https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/animals-and-plants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/spurge-laurel.aspx
Pierce County Noxious Weed Control Board, Spurge Laurel Factsheet, http://www.piercecountyweedboard.org/index.php/spurgelaurel2
Plants for A Future, Daphne Laureola, https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Daphne+laureola
Victoria Parks, Recreation and Community Development, Invasive Aliens from the Garden: Spurge Daphne and Tree Lupine, https://www.victoria.ca/assets/Departments/Parks~Rec~Culture/Parks/Documents/invasive-species-spurge-daphne.pdf
Whatcom County Noxious Weed Control Board, Control Options for Spurge Laurel, https://www.whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/27082/Spurge-Laurel-Management