Myrtle Spurge is a funky little plant that has stealthily crept its way into the many rock gardens and landscapes of Park Hill. While this plant is aesthetically pleasing, requires little water, and has a beautiful yellow glow when it flowers in the spring, this plant is a menace to our neighborhood!
So what’s the problem? Myrtle Spurge was brought to Colorado from Asia by well-intentioned gardeners and greenhouse buyers because it is a cool looking plant that is drought resistant, which is perfect for Colorado’s dry climate. However, once it was brought here, naturalists and land managers realized there was a problem because there were no predators in our ecosystem that would eat the plant and keep in it check, so there was no natural control. Myrtle Spurge spreads very easily because the plant has seed pods that can shoot seeds 10-15 feet each spring. Plants spread from garden to garden and then spread to open spaces where it flourished and dominated local native plants, which in turn began to affect other species food source. This was enough to put Myrtle Spurge on the State of Colorado Class A noxious weed list which is designated for eradication.
Another problem with Myrtle Spurge is that it has a milky white sap that is a blistering agent, which makes it dangerous to humans, especially in neighborhoods like Park Hill that have a lot of children. The sap acts like poison ivy and the blistering agent will spread when scratched or rubbed. It can cause permanent scarring your skin and face or cause blindness if it gets in your eye. Please use caution when removing it from your garden.
How do I get rid of it? Because the sap is dangerous, you need to take a few precautions. Wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, eyewear, and wear rubber gloves over your gardening gloves to prevent the sap from touching your skin. If you do get the sap on your skin, wash it off immediately with Tech-Nu, which can be found at local gardening stores and hardware stores. To remove Myrtle Spurge, use a shovel and at a minimum make sure you sever the taproot a minimum of 2-4 inches below the soil, although removing the whole root is ideal. Myrtle Spurge is a stubborn plant and is likely to pop up again once it is removed and may take up to 8 or 9 years to completely remove from your garden! In the name of environmental sustainability, I am personally a big advocate of manual removal vs. chemical removal.
More Information: To download a brochure with more information about Myrtle Spurge, Click Here.
About the Author: Ford Church is the Founder and Executive Director of the Cottonwood Institute, an educational nonprofit based in Park Hill that develops school-based programs and summer courses that blend adventure, wilderness survival, and environmental service for adventurous high school students and adults. Ford first learned about Myrtle Spurge when his class chose to educate the community and promote an awareness about this invasive plant as part of their environmental action project through the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School. For more information about the Cottonwood Institute check out our 2007 Summer Course Schedule.