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The City of Portland, Oregon

Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Ave, Suite 613, Portland, OR 97204

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Spurge Laurel

photo of pulling spurge laurelWhat is the species?

  • Daphne laureola (spurge laurel)
  • ODA “B” rank

Spurge laurel is a shrub species native to western Europe and north Africa. A hardy evergreen, it has become a species of concern both in the Puget Sound area, as well as the Willamette Valley.

Why are we concerned?

Spurge laurel is known to form dense patches under forest canopy, including Oregon white oak woodlands. It is occasionally resistant to herbicide, making established populations difficult to manage. Spurge laurel infestations can lead to:

  • Reduced plant and animal diversity as other species are choked out
  • Reduced ability to replace adult trees as seedlings fail to mature

How does it spread?

Spurge laurel is spread by seed and by rooting from stems, but not by root fragments. Spurge laurel seeds move by:

  • Wildlife
  • Planting by homeowners

What does it look like?

Spurge laurel has 3-5” long, dark green leaves, arranged in spiral clusters at the ends of branches. Branches are spindly, and almost completely without leaves except at the ends. They also have a tendency to creep along the ground before bending upwards. Small, yellow-green flowers appear in January, giving way in March to groups of green berries that ripen to black by early summer.

Are there any lookalikes?

Spurge laurel is most often confused with rhododendron, but can easily be distinguished. Rhododendron fruits and flowers are found above the leaves; spurge laurel hides them under the leaves. Some species of leafy spurge also bear a strong resemblance but these have a milky latex that bleeds from broken plant tissues.

How do we deal with it?

  • Manual: Digging up spurge laurel has been effective in eradicating smaller populations, though annual visits are necessary to pull new plants. Excavated plants and cut flowerheads must be bagged and put in the garbage to prevent spread to new areas.
  • Herbicide: In many cases, though not all, herbicide use has been effective in eradicating spurge laurel. Site conditions may affect plant susceptibility.

How can folks help?

If you suspect you’ve found spurge laurel, feel free to contact us at the city of Portland, but for the most part, we are no longer treating spurge laurel on private property.