Purge the Spurge to remove invasive noxious weed May 19 - June 5

May 19, 2014

Myrtle spurge in bloom in Garfield County
Myrtle spurge in bloom in Garfield County Photo by Ann Larson
Cypress spurge growing in potted application.
Photo by Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org

Garfield County, CO – A toxic weed in Garfield County has spread from landscaped gardens into native areas, including range and pastures. Myrtle spurge is very dangerous; the most common victims are children who unassumingly pick its flowers. Spurge has a white sap that can cause severe skin irritation.

A program May 19 through June 5 will reward landowners who remove the toxic weeds with vouchers for fresh, non-invasive plants. The spurge was originally introduced locally as an ornamental plant for landscaping. Garfield County property owners are asked to exercise caution when they pull these invasive weeds.

Myrtle spurge is designated as a List A noxious weed by the State of Colorado, which mandates its eradication. Myrtle and cypress spurge are both highly invasive garden plants rapidly spreading throughout Garfield County. Both species may crowd out native vegetation by forming dense infestations that decrease plant diversity for both wildlife and livestock. Cushion spurge, which can be confused with Myrtle and Cypress spurge, is not a List A noxious weed and can be left in landscaping.

Garfield County Vegetation Management is partnering with Colorado State University (CSU) Extension, CSU Master Gardeners, the Bookcliff, Mt. Sopris and South Side Conservation Districts, and Mountain Valley Developmental Services for a Purge the Spurge program to eradicate populations of Myrtle and Cypress spurge in our county.

Residents who collect 30-gallon garbage bags of spurge during the three weeks from May 19 through June 5 will receive $15 vouchers to use in purchasing non-invasive landscape plants at Mountain Valley Greenhouse.

Cypress spurge is included as a target weed in this event along with myrtle spurge. Residents who have collected either of these weeds are asked to contact one of the following: Colorado State University Extension at 970-625-3969, Garfield County at 970-379-4456, or the Conservation Districts at 970-945-5494 ext. 104 to arrange an on-site visit to verify the removed plants are spurge. The residents will then receive coupons for non-invasive landscape plants at Mountain Valley Greenhouse.

Residents are asked to use caution when removing the weeds. It is advised that people wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves while digging or pulling up spurge. Remove at least four inches of the rooted clump. Collect plants in plastic bags for disposal as garbage. Do not compost.

Myrtle spurge has been found in Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Battlement Mesa. It has spread to Peach Valley, Silt Mesa and Canyon Creek.