Euphorbia myrsinites, commonly known as myrtle spurge or donkey tail, is a perennial weed originally introduced from Eurasia as an ornamental plant. In our climate, it has escaped from cultivation and invaded the foothills, forming colonies that can almost completely displace our native plants. Its sap consists of a milky latex that is highly poisonous and has been known to cause blindness if it comes in contact with the eye.
April is the best time to remove myrtle spurge, when it is in bloom and easy to recognize. The individual flowers are tiny, but they’re surrounded by showy, bright yellow bracts. Wearing gloves and eye protection, you can pull the plants out of the ground by the roots if the soil is soft enough, or you can dig them out with a shovel. Be sure to get the roots, or the plant will grow back. If left undisturbed, the flowers will form seed pods that explode in the summer heat and scatter seeds over a surprisingly wide area, so killing them in bloom has the benefit of not only getting rid of the weed now but also preventing future generations. In severely infested areas, control may be necessary for a few years in a row, in order to eliminate the plants that will sprout from dormant seeds.