Shorthorn Spurge

Euphorbia brachycera

Although it resembles the pernicious invasive Leafy spurge, this little native is smaller and exhibits better manners. Some guides use the common name “Horned spurge,” but I think the “Shorthorn” version is more winsome.

Up here, the plants grow to seven or eight inches tall, and tend to be solitary rather than forming clusters. The lime-green foliage is a refreshing contrast to the sage-gray and khaki-green that tends to dominate our grasslands.

Leafy spurge (E. esula), in contrast, is a noxious weed in Colorado and other parts of the West. It’s a tall, fast-spreading non-native invasive, difficult to control on a number of fronts: the roots run deep, range wide, and sprout numerous small buds, any of which can form a new plant. Not only is seed production prolific (up to 130,000 seeds per plant), but the capsules explode when ripe, ejecting seeds up to fifteen feet. To top it off, the sap is a skin and eye irritant, and can affect the mouth and digestive tract in animals that might browse on it.


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2 Responses to Shorthorn Spurge

  1. Kayann says:

    So glad to know the difference between these. Not every spurge must be purged!

    • Andrea Jones says:

      Kayann, when I first found one of these growing in the pasture I about flipped out, fearing it was the vanguard of an invasion. I was relieved to learn about the native species, and now I have a real soft spot for it. Not every spurge is a scourge!

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