Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Purge Your Myrtle Spurge

Today’s Salt Lake Tribune has an article about a plant that’s been invading Ogden’s foothills over the last few years. Now I finally know what it’s called: myrtle spurge, euphorbia myrsinites.

A native of southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, myrtle spurge has made its way into Utah’s gardens as an easy-to-grow xeriscape plant. But it is also extremely invasive, spreading into natural areas and crowding out native vegetation. Now that we know the danger, we need to get rid of this enemy before it propagates any further. (Colorado has already banned myrtle spurge; Utah is still a little behind the times.)

Fortunately, myrtle spurge is easy to recognize and to uproot. Look for the low-growing succulent plant with gray-green leaves and yellow flowers and bracts at the tips of the stems. Being sure to wear gloves, gather up the multiple stems in both hands and firmly pull the plant up by its root.

You need to wear gloves, because the sap of the plant can cause a severe allergic reaction in some people. Be sure to wash your hands after touching it, and avoid touching your eyes. A reaction is especially likely in people who are allergic to latex.

This morning I made a good first dent in the myrtle spurge infestation just above the top of 27th Street. If a few others help out and we keep following-up, I’m sure we can purge it from this location. I’ve also seen it growing along the Mt. Ogden Exercise Trail, and I’m told it’s widespread in Ogden Canyon. I don’t know if it’s still feasible to eradicate it from Weber County, but now is the time to try.

And whatever you do, don’t plant this noxious weed in your yard!