Gopher Spurge
Euphorbia lathyris
Spurge (Euphorbia) Family

Gopher Spurge is also known locally as Leafy Spurge, Caper Spurge, Mole Plant, Cemetery Plant and Myrtle Spurge.

Gopher Spurge is an erect biennial (occasionally annual) plant growing up to 30 inches tall, with a smooth blue-green stem. Its preferred habitat is roadsides, open meadows and in partial to full sun. Distribution in the Escambia region is throughout.

The leaves are lance-like (almost linear), arranged alternate on the stem, but occasionally may be opposite. The longer leaves may be up to 6 inches or more and about ½ inch wide, each having a waxy texture and pale greenish-white midrib and veins.

The flowers are green to yellowish-green, small, bisexual in nature and symmetrical in form. There will be petals but the bracts that subtend the flower is stiff and whitish.

The fruit is globular clusters with three compressed seeds.

All parts of the plant, including the seeds and roots are poisonous. Handling may cause skin irritation as the plant produces latex. While poisonous to humans and most livestock, goats sometimes eat it and are immune to the toxin. However, the toxin can be passed through the goat's milk.

The plant is often sold by nurseries as a product to repel moles. The extracts are used in folk medicine as a poison, antiseptic, and a purgative. It is used as a folk remedy for cancer, corns, and warts.

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