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Washington State Weeds

Spurge Laurel

spurge laurel

Daphne laureola • Class B

Family Name: Thymelaeaceae family  (ty-MEL-ay- uh-see-ee)
Common: Laurel family
Genus: Daphne (DAF-nee)
Meaning: Named for a nymph in Greek mythology, who was turned into a laurel tree
Species: laureola (law-re-OH-luh)
Meaning: Small laurel crown

Spurge Laurel is a small bushy plant between 2 to 4 feet high, with leathery, shiny, evergreen leaves. Small, very fragrant yellow-green flowers bloom at the base of the leaves in late winter or early spring, followed by black, seed producing berries. The mature bark is gray with a yellow hue. 

 Why Is it a Noxious Plant?

All parts of the Spurge Laurel plant are highly toxic, including berries, leaves, stem, bark and sap. Due to the irritating toxins in the plant use extreme caution when cutting this plant. Gloves and other protective gear should be used when handling this plant. Keep the berries away from children and pets. It contains toxins which are poisonous to humans, as well as to dogs and cats. The sap can cause contact dermatitis, eye irritation, and digestive irritation if consumed. 

Where Does it Grow?

S.L. will grow in sun or shade, and is healthiest with some of both. It is found most frequently in the forest understory. 


Spurge laurel is rapidly spreading in the Pacific Northwest. It poses a threat to native ecosystems, including Douglas fir forests and Garry oak woodlands. The shrub can produce dense patches that block sunlight and compete with native plants for water and nutrients. 

Control Options:

Caution must be used when controlling spurge laurel by hand. The caustic sap from this plant can cause severe skin and eye irritation. Always wear protective clothing, gloves and eye protection and never transport this plant or cut plant materials inside an enclosed vehicle because the caustic compounds can cause respiratory irritation. 

  • Hand pulling spurge laurel is effective when the plants are small or where only a few are present. It works best in loose, moist soils, where a slow steady pulling action will remove 6 to 8 inches or more of root. Some new plants may sprout from roots that were broken off at the soil surface, so these hand-pull areas will need to be monitored for regrowth and pulled as they appear. 

  • There are currently no biological control methods available. 

  • Spot spraying with a product containing triclopyr (used in Crossbow and others) has been found to be effective. Treat plants anytime from bud to late blooming stage, being careful to observe the appropriate weather and site conditions listed on the label. Each plant must be sprayed till the leaves and stems are wet in order to kill the plant. Triclopyr is considered selective, but it can injure any other broadleaf plants it comes in contact with. Be sure to clip and bag the ends of any branches with berries on them, to prevent seeds from setting and creating further infestations. 

  • When using herbicides, read and follow all label instructions and obey all label precautions. (Note: pesticide product registration is renewed annually and product names and formulations may vary from year to year.) 

More Information:

 Download our Flyer or visit Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board Here. Photo by Leo Michels


More Pictures:
Spurge Laurel  Spurge Laurel


Spurge Laurel