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Leafy Spurge Distribution

Photo of Floyd Horn, chief administrator for the USDA ARS, overlooks a valley overrun by leafy spurge while attending Spurgefest '99 in Medora, North Dakota.Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) is an invasive exotic weed that infests more than five million acres of land in 35 states and the prairie provinces of Canada. It causes significant problems in the northern Great Plains by invading grazing lands for cattle and horses, reducing rangeland productivity and plant diversity, degrading wildlife habitat, displacing sensitive species and drastically reducing land values.

A native of Eurasia, where it is controlled by natural enemies, leafy spurge readily adapts to a variety of situations. It infests, and if not aggressively managed, can dominate landscapes ranging from open prairie and hillsides to riparian areas and lowlands. The deep-rooted and prolific perennial has doubled in acreage every 10 years since the early 1900s, and is expanding beyond its foothold in the western United States (see leafy spurge timeline).

Two maps of the U.S. showing which states are affected by leafy spurge and which states are considered noxious.

*Source: USDA, NRSCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

**Prepared by Kerri M. Skinner, Ph.D. Ecologist Research Associate, USDA-ARS-PMRU-NPARL,



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