Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula)
- This plant must be eradicated everywhere in Gilpin County.
- Reproduces from vigorous root stalks and numerous seeds.
- Roots may grow more than 15 feet deep.
- When capsules containing the seeds dry they explode and distribute seeds 1-13 feet from the plant.
- Seeds may remain viable in the soil for over 8 years. In Gilpin County, it will go to seed by mid-late July.
- Leafy spurge produces a milky sap, which can cause eye injury.
- This plant can be confused with yellow toadflax in the vegetative stage. To determine which weed you have, carefully break a leaf in half and look for a bead of milky sap coming out of the midvein. If there is milky sap, it is leafy spurge.
- It can reduce livestock carrying capacity of rangeland or pastures by 50 to 75 percent.
- Leafy spurge is difficult to control. Its extensive root system has vast nutrient stores that let it recover from control attempts. Long-term persistence is imperative.
Sheep or goats can be used to help control leafy spurge. Research from Montana State University indicates sheep may consume up to 50 percent of their diet as leafy spurge with no harmful signs. Introduce sheep to leafy spurge in early spring when the weed is succulent. Goats will consume leafy spurge at almost any time during the growing season. This will not eradicate the weed unless intensively grazed over a course of years.
We have attempted to release flea beetle biocontrol agents in Gilpin County several times, but they could not successfully establish, and thus were ineffective.