Cypress Spurge
Euphorbia cyparissiasEuphorbiaceae
Whole Plant
Whole Plant
Flower
Fruit
Whole PlantWhole PlantFlowerFruit
Habitat
Habitat
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted

Synonyms:

  • Galarhoeus cyparissias, Tithymalus cyparissias

The Plant:

  • An herbaceous to semi-woody perennial, 6-12 inches tall.

The Leaves:

  • linear
  • bright green
  • alternate
  • uppermost leaves opposite or whorled giving rise to terminal inflorescence
  • crowded
  • 0.4-1.0 inches long, 0.04 -0.2 inches wide

The Stem:

  • when broken release white milky latex

The Flowers:

  • Yellow-green complex flowers that lack true sepals or petals. Two cordate bracts that resemble petals begin yellow-green and mature into a purplish red color. Arranged in broad terminal umbels, with many male flowers clustered around one female flower which is enclosed by an involucre with 4 horned glands which is yellow-green and matures to orange brown. Blooms from May to August.

The Fruits:

  • 3 lobed
  • green to shades of red, orange and yellow
  • 1-3 egg shaped
  • smooth, gray seeds

The Habitat:

  • old fields, cemeteries, grasslands, roadsides, waste places

Dispersal:

  • fruit exposively dispersed
  • seeds are ant dispersed
  • some plants reported sterile
  • also reproduces vegetatively by lateral root buds

Key ID Features:

  • linear
  • alternate leaves
  • stems release milky white latex when broken
  • yellowish-green flowers mature to orange-brown

Similar Species:

  • Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) is another invasive that resembles Cypress spurge, but is taller, more robust, and has wider leaves. Cypress spurge (E. cyparissias) has very thin, linear leaves and smaller flower bracts.

Notes:

  • Cypress spurge is often very numerous in disturbed areas due to its ability to reproduce vegetatively. Humans can be sensitive to the milky-white latex within the plant and it is deemed an agricultural pest as it is toxic to horses and cattle.

Growth Form: Herb

Origin: Europe, Asia

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Likely Invasive

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: importation ban, propagation ban




Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston