Caper Spurge or Mole Plant: Euphorbia lathyris

Weed Description:  Caper Spurge is an annual with opposite, lanceolate leaves that is often grown as an ornamental. All parts of these plants emit a milky sap when broken. It occasionally occurs as a weed of landscapes, roadsides, and pastures, but is not very common. It’s 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.

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.

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. It’s 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.

Source: Caper Spurge or Mole Plant: Euphorbia lathyris