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Though flowering spurge can be unkempt in appearance, it would be a valuable addition to a native garden, pollinator garden, or naturalized meadow landscape. The conspicuous white flowers have a long blooming season, from early summer to early autumn, and are not fragrant. The highly adaptable nature of flowering spurge can make this a perfect perennial for poor soils. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Spurge
  • Family (botanic) Euphorbiaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches), Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Narrow, Open, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Wildlife Birds, Butterflies, Game mammals, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Flowering spurge often matures to a 2 to 3-foot height and width. It spreads by forming clumps from underground stem structures (rhizomes) and by seeds being ejected from the fruit. Clump division is best accomplished in the spring or fall. Flowering spurge can be propagated easily by root cutting, seed, or division. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Flowering spurge is native to most of the Northeastern, Southern, and Midwestern United States. C-value: 4.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

A number of bee, wasp, fly, and butterfly species visit the flowers of this perennial, including the beautiful, endangered Karner blue butterfly species (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). The foliage is fed upon by aphids, flea beetles, and a euphorbia bug (Chariesterus antennator) known for its association with flowering spurge. The seeds of flowering spurge attract a number of bird species, especially bobwhite quail, greater prairie chicken, horned lark, mourning dove, and wild turkey. Small mammals also consume the seeds of flowering spurge.

Leaf description:

The majority of flowering spurge leaves occur in an alternate arrangement along the stems, with the exception of the three or more whorled leaves at the base of the floral branches. They have prominent central veins in a featherlike (pinnate) structure. The leaves are bluish-green in color, much longer than wide with nearly parallel sides (oblong to linear-oblong), and toothless edges (entire margins). Each end of the leaves are rounded. They attach directly, or nearly so, to the stem (sessile to nearly sessile). Generally, flowering spurge has hairless (glabrous) leaves, but occasionally hair will be present on the lower sides of the leaves (pubescent). 

Flower description:

Flowering spurge produces flowers that grow on individual, branched stalks that mature from the bottom towards the top (cymes). These panicles occur on the terminal ends of mature stems. A cuplike structure (cyanthium) contains small, unisex flowers surrounded by five white petallike reduced leaf structures (bracts) and five green nectar glands. The bracts may be faintly notched at the tips and are somewhat egg-shaped (ovate). Flowering spurge produces separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on the same plant (monoecious). The pistillate flowers contain a single ovary with three pollen receptors (tripartite style). The staminate flowers are less conspicuous and contain multiple pollen-producing organs (stamen). At the base of the flower stalk branches, flowering spurge develops two small, light green, leaflike bracts. 

Fruit description:

The fruit develops from the pistillate flowers, where the tripartite style develops into three chamber capsules that are spherical in shape (globular). Each capsule contains a single seed, and when they have matured, the capsules split to eject those seeds. 

Plant care:

When tending to flowering spurge, it is recommended to wear gloves, as the white latex produced by the plant is a skin irritant. The deep taproot makes this plant difficult to transplant, so take care in selecting a location for flowering spurge. This is a plant that thrives in poor soils due to the reduced competition.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Flowering spurge does not have major issues with pests or disease. The milky latex discourages herbivores, making flowering spurge deer and rabbit resistant. Flowering spurge also tolerates poor soil, as long as it is well drained. The deep taproot allows flowering spurge to be tolerant to drought as well.


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