Spotted Spurge

Biological Name:

Euphorbia maculata (Spotted-Spurge)

Natural Habitat:

Spotted-Spurge: The spotted-spurge grows in areas with moist soil, such as gardens and along roadsides. It is commonly found in Europe and North America.


Spotted-Spurge also known as Euphorbia is a plant that is native to grassland and prairie regions of North America. It is an annual herb that can grow up to two feet tall and it has small oval-shaped leaves and small white or green flowers that bloom in the summer. The plant is known for its milky sap which is toxic to humans and animals and it is often found in disturbed or degraded habitats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What will kill spotted spurge?
A: This weed can be controlled with various postemergence herbicides, particularly those containing combinations of 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP, and/or fluroxypyr. Some preemergence herbicides will control spotted spurge from seed but have no effect on emerged plants.

Q: How do you get rid of spotted spurge naturally?
A: Because of the spotted spurge weed’s mat-like nature, hand pulling is a good option for removing spotted spurge from the lawn or flower beds. Be sure to wear gloves due to the irritating sap. Make sure that you pull this weed before it has a chance to develop seeds; otherwise, it will spread rapidly.

Q: Can you kill spurge with vinegar?
A: The vinegar mix burns the leaves of plants. I found it to be effective on young crabgrass, fescue, spotted spurge, newly emerged morning glory and oxalis.

Q: Is spotted spurge poisonous to humans?
A: Stems do not form roots at the nodes (Landschoot et al., 2020). Spotted spurge has reddish, branched stems with fine hairs (Figure 2). If broken or punctured, the stems secrete a milky-white, sticky sap that is poisonous and can irritate human skin and eyes (Figure 3).

Q: Is spurge good for anything?
A: Overview. Cypress spurge is a plant. The flowering plant and root are used to make medicine. Despite serious safety concerns, people take cypress spurge for breathing disorders, diarrhea, and skin diseases.

Q: Is spurge toxic to dogs?
A: Mature plants have extensive root systems that may extend 15 or more feet into the soil and many have horizontal roots that enable the colony to enlarge by underground growth. Leafy spurge contains the alkaloid euphorbon, which is toxic to humans and animals and is a known co-carcinogen.

Q: Is spurge a good ground cover?
A: Most spurge will spread by underground rhizomes, creating dense mats of foliage. This makes it a great option as a groundcover or as a filler between taller plants.

Q: What will happen if you touch Euphorbia plants?
A: If you get the sap on your hands, it can cause painful inflammation. Alys Fowler, horticulturist, says: “Euphorbia sap causes skin to become photosensitive: so, if you handle it with bare skin in the sun, it can cause blisters.” If you get sap on your skin, you should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.

Q: What kills spurge best?
A: If you have missed your application window for Barricade or you are starting to see spurge growing on your property, use the selective, post-emergent herbicide Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit offers great control spurge and other hard-to-kill weeds, and it is a selective herbicide, meaning you can safely apply it to turf areas.

Q: Should I remove spotted spurge?
A: To help lessen the chances of it coming back, remove spotted spurge before it has a chance to flower and produce seeds. Small patches of spotted spurge plants can also be killed using a read-to-use lawn weed killer, like Scotts® Spot Weed Control for Lawns.

Q: How do I stop my spurge from growing?
A: By choosing a post-emergent herbicide treatment that is labeled for spurge, such as Ferti-Lome Weed-Out or Dismiss Turf Herbicide, you can kill spurge weeds. Spurge responds best to post-emergent weed killer when the weeds are young; mature weeds are harder to kill.

Q: Should spurge be cut back?
A: These designations ultimately influence how a spurge is pruned back. It is very important not to cut back the stems of caulescent types in autumn; if you do, they will not flower the next spring. The acaulescent types go dormant in autumn, so the whole of the plant can be cut back to the ground.

Q: Does Roundup work on spurge?
A: Glyphosate. The nonselective herbicide Roundup (a formulation of glyphosate), sprayed on leafy spurge foliage as a 33-percent solution (one part Roundup in three parts water), will provide 80- to 90-percent top control if applied between mid-August and mid-September.

Q: Does spurge come back every year?
A: Since they are perennials, they come back each year. Throughout the year, flowers initially provide bright yellow colour but the foliage color on many can be green, variegated or turn maroon-red over the seasons, as with the spurge named Bonfire, so your landscape will have endless interest all year long.

Q: Is spotted spurge invasive?
A: Spotted spurge is invasive in California, North Dakota, and New York state.

Q: Does spurge deter moles?
A: The caper spurge, Euphorbia lathyris seeds freely producing a strange plant of architectural appearance. It is commonly known as mole plant because of its apparent ability to keep moles at bay. It seems to grow best on shallow chalk soils which are rarely favourite mole habitats.

About the author

Samuel is a gardening professional and enthusiast who has spent over 20 years advising homeowners and farm owners on weed identification, prevention and removal. He has an undergraduate degree in plant and soil science from Michigan State University.