Vectors of spread:
Spurge Laurel is also known as Daphne Laurel.
General: Spurge Laurel is a medium-sized, long-lived, slow-growing 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: Mature plants range from 0.5 – 1.8 m in height. Immature stems are thin and green, but they turn yellow-grey once they are mature. Stems emit a strong odor when cut.
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.
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.
Spurge Laurel can be found along roadsides and in moist wooded areas. It is shade tolerant, so it will grow in sunny or shaded areas, and thrives in well-drained soils, especially in forest understories. This plant does not require soil to be disturbed in order to spread.
Propagation and Vectors of Spread
Spurge Laurel reproduces primarily by seed, but can also spread through root sprouts. Spurge Laurel plants begin producing seeds after 4 years of growth. Berries emerge shortly after the 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 is also spread via the horticulture trade, as it is sometimes sold in nurseries for its attractive foliage.
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 (allelopathic properties).
- It poses a threat to native ecosystems, including Douglas fir forests and Garry oak woodlands.
- 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.
- Reduces crop yields due to dense colonies crowding out forage fields and decreasing moisture and nutrients.
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.
Caution: All parts of Spurge Laurel are poisonous, and contain a sap that causes skin rashes.
- Wearing protective gear (waterproof gloves, rubber raincoat and pants, eye protection, and possibly a respirator), small Spurge Laurel plants may be hand-pulled.
- For larger plants, cut the stem below the root collar (which is located below the surface of the soil); it is safer not to dig up mature plants.
- Plant material must be bagged and taken to a landfill (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.
- 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.
- We recommend that any herbicide application be 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.
There are currently no known biological agents for Spurge Laurel.
- City of Victoria, Invasive Aliens from the Garden: Spurge Daphne and Tree Lupine, http://www.victoria.ca/assets/Departments/Parks~Rec~Culture/Parks/Documents/invasive-species-spurge-daphne.pdf
- Coastal Invasive Species Council, Daphne / Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola) Control in BC, https://www.coastalisc.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Daphne_Control_-_Nov._23_2009.pdf
- District of Saanich, Controlling Invasive Plants on your property, https://www.saanich.ca/assets/Community/Documents/Invasive%20Plants%20Booklet%202015%20Final.pdf
- East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Spurge Laurel, https://emswcd.org/on-your-land/weeds/weeds-to-know/spurge-laurel/
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of BC, Daphne laureola, https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Daphne%20laureola&noTransfer=0
- Fraser Valley Invasive Species Society, Spurge Laurel, https://fviss.ca/invasive-plant/spurge-laurel-daphne
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Daphne (Spurge-laurel), https://bcinvasives.ca/invasives/daphne-spurge-laurel/
- King County, Spurge laurel identification and control, https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/animals-and-plants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/spurge-laurel.aspx
- Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks, Spurge laurel (Daphne laureola), https://pnwhandbooks.org/weed/problem-weeds/spurge-laurel-daphne-laureola
- Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Spurge Laurel, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/spurge-laurel
- Worksafe BC, Toxic Plant Warning: Severe Skin Irritation from Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola), https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/health-safety/information-sheets/toxic-plant-warning/severe-skin-irritation-from-spurge-laurel-daphne-laureola?lang=en