LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Spring time brings blooming flowers, bees pollinating fruit trees, and the urge to get back into the garden. Most of the plants that surround us are beneficial by bringing food, fiber and beauty into our lives while supporting a vast collection of small animals and insects.
But some of these plants can hurt us, and may be only as far away as your back yard. Myrtle spurge is highlighted on the state’s noxious weed list as a potentially dangerous plant and was once considered an ornamental plant used in yards and other landscaping in Colorado. Not only does it pose a threat to native plant communities, it poses a threat to people, pets and livestock.
According to Steve Ryder, State Weed Coordinator at the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the milky sap of the spurge family of plants is toxic to many people and, if accidentally ingested, can be a serious health threat. “Myrtle spurge can cause severe allergic skin reactions on contact with the sap, especially in children. Some people are not affected by the milky sap, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. This is one reason why myrtle spurge is on the noxious weed list, which requires that land owners eradicate these plants wherever found. Cities and counties have the duty and authority to enforce this requirement.”
This spring, officials from the City and County of Denver have been conducting a door-to-door campaign in parts of the city to inform residents if the plant is on their property, and to assist in its removal. Other Front Range counties and cities have also been very active in trying to eliminate myrtle spurge.
When tackling myrtle spurge, Ryder cautions landowners to be prepared:
- Keep young children and pets away.
- Cover exposed skin.
- Wear eye protection and gloves. Gloves are essential.
- Plants can be dug up or pulled, and must be bagged and sent to a landfill.
- Do not compost or burn the plants.
For more information about noxious weeds, contact CDA at (303) 239-4100 or your county or city noxious weed program. More information on myrtle spurge can be found at www.colorado.gov/ag/