Euphorbia Species, 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:Epurga lathyris
Synonym:Euphorbia decussata
Synonym:Euphorbia spongiosa
Synonym:Euphorbion lathyrum
Synonym:Tithymalus lathyris




Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun




Foliage Color:



24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


Seed is poisonous if ingested

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Blooms repeatedly

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Goodyear, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Arroyo Grande, California

Clayton, California

El Cajon, California

Fairfield, California

Granite Hills, California

Harbison Canyon, California

Pinole, California

Rancho San Diego, California

Redding, California

San Rafael, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Weston, Colorado

Wethersfield, Connecticut

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

Pawling, New York

Charlotte, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Fairfield, Ohio

Yukon, Oklahoma

Ashland, Oregon

Cloverdale, Oregon

Eugene, Oregon

Gold Hill, Oregon

Portland, Oregon(3 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

Clarkston Heights-Vineland, Washington

Cusick, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Monroe, Washington

Stevenson, Washington

Tenino, Washington

Waterville, Washington

West Clarkston-Highland, Washington

Woods Creek, Washington

Bunker Hill, West Virginia

Great Cacapon, West Virginia

Liberty, West Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 14, 2016, Domehomedee from Arroyo Grande, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I guess I'm fortunate that I don't seem to be allergic to this plant. I have had them in my garden for a decade and never had any trouble with them. I will be more careful with them now that I have read the terrible experiences people have had. They grow along the tree line in my garden in full shade. They volunteer there every year. I like the true green color of the blooms and the height is nice for an area most plants will not grow in due to the shade. I've never grown them in full sun.


On May 16, 2016, MaggieMLGarden from Pawling, NY wrote:

In Pawling NY, this plant works like magic to deter voles. Yes, the sap is toxic, and it self sows abundantly, and it looks ragged in its second year. But it is worth all these inconveniences because it is the only thing I have found that keeps the voles from devouring the garden -- (eg 16 mature rose bushes in one season.) In spring, after the old plants have flowered, I pull them up and thin the volunteers from the previous year's seeds. One plant every 25 feet or so is enough to prevent vole damage.


On Dec 14, 2015, DouginPDX from Portland, OR wrote:

I noticed this plant voluntarily growing in my yard in Portland Oregon this summer, it seems to grow quite well , this is it's first year here, a friend of mine identified it as a plant also growing in his yard that also volunteered , and was known as a plant that detracts moles,and gophers, , have not seen a bloom, but it got here some how.
I'll have to update you later on the gopher abilities. It's a pleasant looking plant and doing well here in December


On Aug 3, 2015, GypsyFarmGirl from Seattle, WA wrote:

We thought this was an interesting wild addition to our permaculture-style garden, until I got one small drop of its white milky liquid on my wrist accidentally. The result? A three inch wide painful welt with tiny blood blisters, felt very much like a chemical burn. I followed the instructions here, washed it with rubbing alcohol and coated with cortisone cream. A day later it remains painful and swollen, but the cortisone does seem to be winning the battle.

The creepy part? I have a photo of my two year old grandson investigating that plant earlier that same day before I figured out what it was and decided to remove it from our landscape. Fortunately, he did not encounter any of the caustic liquid.

Some folks with larger properties where human contact with t... read more


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!!!


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... read more


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 h... read more


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.



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 h... read more


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 (... read more


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, a... read more


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.


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.


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.


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.


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, j... read more


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 ou... read more


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.