Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Caper Spurge or Mole Plant: Euphorbia lathyris

caperspurge8-7.jpg (102203 bytes) Weed Description:  An annual with opposite, lanceolate leaves that is often grown as an ornamental.  All parts of these plants emit a milky sap when broken.  Caper spurge occasionally occurs as a weed of landscapes, roadsides, and pastures, but is not very common.  Caper spurge is found throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and West Virginia.
Leaves: Lanceolate in outline, without hairs, approximately 2 1/2 to 6 inches long, 1/4 to 1 inch wide.  Leaves are arranged oppositely and are without petioles (sessile).  Leaves also have conspicuous white midveins.  Leaves near the upper flowers are much shorter and triangular in outline.  Leaves emit a milky sap when broken.  caperspurge6-26e.jpg (135247 bytes)
caperspurge6-26b.jpg (135320 bytes) Flowers:  Flowers are relatively inconspicuous and occur in the upper portions of the plant.  Flowers are green to greenish yellow in color.
Fruit:  A smooth capsule that is 8 to 10 mm long.

Stems:  Erect, without hairs, emits a milky sap when cut.

caperspurge6-26c.jpg (63085 bytes)
caperspurge6-26.jpg (69267 bytes) Identifying Characteristics:   Erect plants with lanceolate leaves with a conspicuous white midvein.   Additionally, the fact that these plants emit a milky sap when cut readily identifies them as a Euphorbia species.  Caper spurge is often confused with leafy spurge, however leafy spurge is a perennial with lateral root buds and does not have the conspicuous white midveins like those of caper spurge.