Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Gopher Spurge, Caper Spurge, Mole Plant, Myrtle Spurge
Euphorbia lathyris

Family: Euphorbiaceae (yoo-for-bee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Euphorbia (yoo-FOR-bee-uh) (Info)
Species: lathyris (lay-THY-ris) (Info)

Synonym:Euphorbia lathyrus
Synonym:Galarhoeus lathyris
Synonym:Tithymalus lathyris

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

18 members have or want this plant for trade.


Unknown - Tell us

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Seed is poisonous if ingested
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Blooms repeatedly


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 14 photos.
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8 positives
2 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive baseball02 On Jul 24, 2013, baseball02 from San Diego, CA wrote:

Over the last couple of years my gopher plants start off real good! Grow really full and healthy but after about 5 months they seem to die!! Help!!!

Positive violavinca On May 27, 2012, violavinca from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

Should have done my due diligence on the plant before adding as a key feature to my yard due to the allergic reaction to the sap. That said, it is a great plant, grows well in the Las Vegas climate, is green all year and blooms when other plants often don't. However, next time I tend the plant it will be treated with the respect both of us deserve!

1. Bees LOVE the blooms. If you are allergic, this is not the plant for you.

2. As others have stated in this string, the sap does not wash off, residue is left. I was most careful - or so I thought - having worn gloves, but shortly after cleaning up I must have brushed my face with my arm where the sap had come in contact. Within less than an hour my eyes felt like they were on fire and my face swelled from lower eyelids to mouth. Tip of tongue lost sensitivity. The pain is intense. After visit to emergency doc, steroid shot & antibiotic eye drops later, all began to improve. As noted by others, it takes several days for full recovery.

Negative AzLiz On May 11, 2012, AzLiz from Tucson, AZ wrote:

While this is a spectacular blooming plant with large, chartreuse flowers in early spring, BEWARE OF THE SAP!! I had a allergic reaction after trimming off the spent blooms that has still not cleared up after 72 hours. I experienced itching hives, extremely flushed face, swollen eyelids, lips and cheeks. Got a cortisone shot from the doctor and cortisone cream to apply twice daily and now have peeling skin on my face where the flushing and swelling had been. I have been told that since the milky, white sap is an ester, in order to neutralize the toxicity you must use rubbing alcohol...soap and water won't clean it off. Obviously, you won't use rubbing alcohol if it gets in your eyes; repeated flushing with water is the best course of action in that case. I love the LOOK of this plant here in southern Arizona...elev.3600 ft..but will be wary next time it needs pruning!

Negative kittymom_1 On May 4, 2010, kittymom_1 from Post Falls, ID wrote:

pull that plant out!
nasty, considered a noxious weed here in the Pac NW, takes over everything, and yes the sap is dangerous. Chokes everything else out.
Did you know I found on the web (U of Tenn) that the seeds get "thrown" 50 feet, and the roots can grow about 2 ft.a day.


Neutral cglover72 On Oct 27, 2009, cglover72 from Goodyear, AZ wrote:

I'm in GoodYear, Az. We do have gopher problems and this plant has not helped. It's probably because they haven't eaten it. It's a nice looking plant. I've lived in my house for 1 1/2 years and didn't have anything to do with this plant until yesterday. I was cutting it back and noticed all this milky substance. I didn't think to much about it as it came in contact with the skin on my arm. Later that night my arm started itching. When I started scratching it it felt very sore in spots. It continued it itch. I still didn't get it. I thought something bit me like a flea but I couldn't figure out where I would of gotten fleas from. The next morning still felt the same but it didn't welt up like a flea bite would but it was red in spots on my arm and on the back of my fingers. Then it hit me! I wonder if that milky substance had something fo do with it! And this is why I found this site because I decided to do some research. Wow, could be very nasty if you hot it in your eyes !!!
Very pretty plant but I'd put a bag around the plant if I start cutting on it again!

Negative ElizShay On Oct 12, 2008, ElizShay from Tenino, WA wrote:

I, too, had an experience with this poisonous plant.

After a gopher or mole decided our barked walk-way was prime territory, I would cut a stalk of this plant and push it into the soft mound of dirt where the critter had excavated. It didn't seem to come back to these spots. However, it showed up a few feet away, or a few yards away.

My thought was that if I would sprinkle the leaves and bits of stem over the bark that it may discourage the activity in this area. So, I stripped the leaves by hand and distributed a few cups worth over the walk way.

Now, I'm a mother and grandmother. I say, "wash your hands" about ten times a day and have made a habit of frequently doing so myself. However, I underestimated the potency and sticky-ness (no such word, I'm sure!) of the residue on my hands. A few hours later, after at least three hand-washings, I raised my glasses and rubbed my eyes. Wrong-o, Buck-o. Within one minute my eyes watered and my sinuses went crazy. Within two minutes, my eyes started to burn. Within ten minutes, my eyes were bloodshot and swollen. I had rinsed my eyes with tap water within the first two minutes but to no avail.

I called the poison hotline (800-222-1222, if memory serves me -- dial 1-800-555-1212 and ask directory assistance to be sure of the number) and asked if there could be any serious damage. Their response was that the plant was definitely toxic and that if, after a couple of good rinses, the symptoms continued for an hour to go to the emergency room. Apparently, no one has ever reported blindness or permanent damage. (Doesn't mean it isn't possible!)

Yep. Two hours later I was in the ER, 35 miles from our woodsy rural home. I was given a steroid, oral, and told to get a lubricating eye drop -- not one of those "gets the red out" types, rather one that emulated natural tears or soothes. I opted for one with a small amount of mineral oil.

So, my fellow gardeners, remember to wash your hands well if you don't use gloves. Actually, wash them well even if you wear gloves (after you put gloves away and won't touch them again until you put them on to work the next time.)

As for the mole or gopher, if he pops up where I spread the leaves, pods, and stems, I'll go shopping for a shot gun! (nah... I'd end up shooting myself in the foot!)

Best regards,


Negative hdmonster On Jun 26, 2008, hdmonster from Portland, OR wrote:

Be very careful! The note about the sap being toxic is not an understatement. The story of my experience with this plant is below.

After carefully tending to this plant when it volunteered in my garden, I had six foot tall spiky plants that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss illustration, stalks were about the diameter of a quarter. I knew nothing regarding their purported mole deterrent properties, but thought they were a really cool looking mystery plant. After a heavy rain late in the season, they fell over, and I pulled them out. This is where things went very, very, wrong.

They were very large and I had to cut them down to fit them in the yard debris. Cutting with garden shears caused an explosion of milky sap. I got a face full of it, and in my eyes, and it's very hard to wash off Soap and water won't remove it. After my eyes swelled shut and 20 or 30 minutes of running my head under a tap didn't help the burning, I ended up in the emergency room, where they had to flush my eyes repeatedly and fill me full of steroids. Also, I looked like I'd been in a bar fight for *days* afterwards.

It's a pretty plant, but it is invasive (the following year, I was pulling the seedlings constantly), and if it's watered well it will explode when broken with any force. Wear eye protection at the least...and a hockey mask probably also wouldn't hurt. Don't let kids touch it.

Positive josherman On Oct 12, 2005, josherman from Cusick, WA wrote:

This plant (gopher spurge) has been growing in my vegetable garden for years (15-20). Grows like a weed, self propagating, rototill in the fall and they just keep coming back. This year is first in memory when I had plants with obvious seedheads, half are brown and dry the rest are green and leak white latex (poisonous I assume), I quit picking the green ones. Oh yeah, haven't had any gophers/moles since second or third year of planting orignal specimens.

Positive mgarr On Jan 16, 2005, mgarr from Hanover Twp., PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

I grow this plant just because it stays green, zone 5, in our winters. It is just one more thing to look at that is not gray or brown.

Positive sherburne On Mar 14, 2004, sherburne wrote:

After living with this plant in my yard for six years in Portland, OR, I can honestly say that I never had trouble with moles. To be fair, though, it is important to note that it came with the house; I didn't plant it in response to a mole problem. Perhaps a previous owner did?

The plant required very little care, and spread quickly throughout the yard (along with the arum italicum and deadly nightshade). No maintenance required.

Positive danstanley On Dec 2, 2003, danstanley wrote:

I first noticed gopher spurge growing on a road embankment near my house. The red stem and the white-veined leaves looked attractive so I have potted a specimen. I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Neutral palmbob On Nov 14, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have grown this plant for about 6 years now and its effecttiveness in keeping gophers away has been pretty poor. Though I haven't actually seen gophers eat this plant, they have eaten bananas only 6" away from several large specimens. This plant is a self seeder and in my experience only lives for about 2-3 years max, at which time it gets suddenly huge, flowers and the next thing you know it's popping up everywhere. I let it do this in the hopes that maybe then the gophers would take off, but nothing of the sort. Oh well. Not a bad looking plant and pretty easy to pull out of the ground if it's not growing where you want it, but it IS invasive.

Probably all Euphorbias are to some extent gopher retardents in that they have toxic roots. I have had gophers, though, just dig around my Euphorbias and happily munch a palm or tropical right nearby. I have found road flares are much more effective in chasing them away than planting Euphorbias (though I won't stop planting Euphorbias).

Positive RobertBurns On Nov 14, 2003, RobertBurns wrote:

My first experience with the "gopher plant" was after it had been planted in my mother's small backyard garden around the borders. The gopher problem quickly disappeared, and I believe the number of plants used was only 4, one on each side of the rectangular yard.

I later recommended this plant to a vineyard owner who was also having gopher problems in his small personal garden-about 30'x40'. When I asked him about the effectiveness of the 4 plants that I had dug up from my mother's yard, he responded that it had apparently worked, as he too had had no further problems with gophers since planting the 'gopher plants' I had given him. This is only two trials of the effectiveness of this plant in eradicating gopher problems, but so far the plant has been 100% effective in our experience.
-Robert Burns, Napa,California

Positive Happenstance On Sep 2, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

Although this is often marketed as a pocket gopher control, it would only work if the gopher actually CONSUMED in large quantities the roots/leaves/stems/seed pods as he busily burrows through the root ball in search of Hybrid tea roses or other tastier morsels in your garden.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Goodyear, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Clayton, California
El Cajon, California
Fairfield, California
Pinole, California
Redding, California
San Rafael, California
Thousand Oaks, California
Weston, Colorado
Post Falls, Idaho
Ewing, Kentucky
Cumberland, Maryland
Mason, Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
Las Vegas, Nevada
Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Neptune, New Jersey
Princeton Junction, New Jersey
Hilton, New York
Millbrook, New York
Charlotte, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Fairfield, Ohio
Yukon, Oklahoma
Ashland, Oregon
Cloverdale, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon
Gold Hill, Oregon
Portland, Oregon (2 reports)
Salem, Oregon
South Beach, Oregon
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Exeter, Rhode Island
Conway, South Carolina
Toone, Tennessee
Virgin, Utah
Lexington, Virginia
Bellingham, Washington
Clarkston, Washington
Cusick, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Monroe, Washington
Stevenson, Washington
Tenino, Washington
Waterville, Washington
Bunker Hill, West Virginia
Great Cacapon, West Virginia
Liberty, West Virginia

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