cypress spurge

(Euphorbia cyparissias)

Conservation Status
cypress spurge
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

This non-native plant is on the noxious weed list in 46 states including Wisconsin. It is not listed in Minnesota.


Cypress spurge is an erect, perennial forb that rises from stout, fleshy roots and creeping, horizontal, underground stems (rhizomes). It can be 8 to 32 tall, but in Minnesota it is rarely more than 16 in height. It often forms colonies.

The stems are erect or ascending, densely leafy, round, light green, and hairless. It is usually unbranched below the inflorescence at first, but produces several densely-leafy side branches above the middle after flowering time. The stem and leaves exude a sticky white latex when broken.

Stem leaves are alternate, crowded, and stalkless. The leaf blades are linear, to 13 16 long, and 1 32 to wide. They are rounded at the base, short-tapered or angled to a sharp point at the tip, and have a single prominent midvein. The upper and lower surfaces are hairless and green, yellowish-green, or bluish-green. The margins are untoothed. At the top of the stem, just below the inflorescence there is a whorl of 10 or more leaves that are similar to stem leaves.

What appear to be flowers are actually false flowers (cyathia) common to the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family. The inflorescence is an umbrella-shaped arrangement (umbel) of 10 to 18 cyathia at the end of the stem. The umbel has 10 or more primary, hairless, pale green branches (rays). At the tip of each ray there is a pair of inflorescence leaves. These leaves are broadly egg-shaped to heart-shaped or kidney-shaped, about ½ in diameter, rounded or heart-shaped at the base, and broadly angled to short point at the tip. They are greenish-yellow or yellowish-green, becoming somewhat reddish-tinged as they mature. The rays are usually branched above the inflorescence leaves. Each ray or ray branch ends in a singe cyathium.

Each cyathium is closely subtended by a pair of showy, bract-like structures (cyathophylls). The cyathophylls are about ¼ in diameter and otherwise similar to the inflorescence leaves. They are greenish-yellow and cupped around the cyathium at first, turning reddish and flattening out as they mature. They appear superficially like petals.

The cyathium is about in diameter on a stalk up to ¾ long. It consists of an involucre, 4 glands, a single female (pistillate) flower and 15 to 25 male (staminate) flowers. There are no petals or sepals. The involucre is formed from 2 fused bracts and is deeply cup-shaped. The glands are greenish-yellow to yellow, spreading, and crescent-shaped, with a short, outward-curved, hornlike tip at each end. The female flower has 3 styles that are fused at the base for about of their length, then split at the tip for about of their length into 2 club-shaped lobes. The stamens are crowded around the base of the pistil.

Only a few cyathia produce fruit. The fruit is formed from a compound, 3-chambered ovary. It looks like a capsule but is actually schizocarp. It is 3-lobed, 1 16 to long, and hairless, and has a pebbled or warty surface. Each schizocarp contains 1 to 3 grayish, 1 16 to 3 16long seeds.




8 to 16


Flower Color




Similar Species


Leafy spurge (Euphorbia virgata) is similar but a much larger plant, up to 28 in height. The leaves are larger, up to 4 long and up to wide, and are not crowded.


Moderately moist to dry. Open woodlands and disturbed areas, including pastures, vacant lots, roadsides, railroads, and graveyards. Full sun to light shade. Sandy or loamy soil.




May to August


Pests and Diseases






The latex exuded by broken stems and leaves of cypress spurge causes a rash in some people similar to that of poison ivy. The plant may also be toxic to cattle and horses.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 28, 29, 30.




Native to Europe and western Asia. Cultivated as an ornamental, escaped cultivation, naturalized in North America.




Widespread but scattered to uncommon

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Malpighiales (nances, willows, and allies)  


Euphorbiaceae (spurge)  
  Subfamily Euphorbioideae  
  Tribe Euphorbieae  
  Subtribe Euphorbiinae  


Euphorbia (spurges)  
  Subgenus Esula  
  Section Esula  

Subordinate Taxa






Galarhoeus cyparissias

Tithymalus cyparissias


Common Names


cypress spurge

graveyard spurge












Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



The false flower of the spurge (Euphorbiaceae) family, consisting of a cup-like involucre surrounding a cluster of small flowers.



A whorl of bracts beneath or surrounding a flower or flower cluster.



A milky, clear, or sometimes colored sap that coagulates on exposure to air.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



In the Asteraceae (aster) family: a strap-shaped flower, or the strap-shaped portion of a flower. In the Apiaceae (carrot) and Euphorbiaceae (spurge) families: a branch of an umbel.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



A dry fruit formed from a compound ovary that splits into two or more parts (mericarps) at maturity.



A flat-topped or convex, umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers or buds arising from more or less a single point.

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Other Videos
  Cypress Spurge

Uploaded on Jun 18, 2010

Cypress spurge is an invasive plant in Presque Isle State Park. Learn a little bit about this plant and why it's dangerous. This is just one of the nature walks that took place at the 2010 PA Wild Resource Festival at the Tom Ridge Center in Erie, PA.

  Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia Cyparissias) - 2012-05-30

Published on Jun 1, 2012

Euphorbia cyparissias, the Cypress Spurge, is a plant in the genus Euphorbia.

De cipreswolfsmelk (Euphorbia cyparissias) is een vaste plant die behoort tot de Wolfsmelkfamilie (Euphorbiaceae).

52.03999 4.23574

  Laptele cucului -Euphorbia cyparissias
Adrian Manolache

Published on Apr 11, 2014

  Euphorbia cyparissias - Zypressen-Wolfsmilch, Cypress Spurge

Published on Apr 26, 2014

Die Zypressen-Wolfmilch (Euphorbia cyparissias) und tierische Nebendarsteller wie Maikäfer, Fliegen, Schmetterlinge.

Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias) with butterflies, flies and cockchafer.




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