Euphorbia peplus L. Petty Spurge
Sp.Pl. 1:456 (1753)

Conservation Code: Not threatened
Naturalised Status: Alien to Western Australia
Name Status: Current

Brief Description
Grazyna Paczkowska, Friday 30 August 1996

Erect or procumbent annual, herb, 0.05-0.4 m high. Fl. green-yellow, Jul to Dec or Jan. Disturbed sites.


Beard’s Provinces: South-West Province.

IBRA Regions: Avon Wheatbelt, Esperance Plains, Geraldton Sandplains, Jarrah Forest, Mallee, Swan Coastal Plain, Warren.

IBRA Subregions: Avon Wheatbelt P2, Fitzgerald, Geraldton Hills, Perth, Recherche, Southern Jarrah Forest, Warren, Western Mallee.

IMCRA Regions: Central West Coast, Leeuwin-Naturaliste, WA South Coast.

Local Government Areas (LGAs): Albany, Augusta Margaret River, Busselton, Cockburn, Cottesloe, Cranbrook, Denmark, Esperance, Fremantle, Gnowangerup, Greater Geraldton, Irwin, Manjimup, Melville, Murray, Nannup, Nedlands, Perth, Pingelly, Ravensthorpe, Rockingham, South Perth, Stirling, Swan, Wanneroo.

Management Notes (for the Swan NRM Region)
Kate Brown and Karen Bettink, Monday 26 August 2019

Alternative Names. Radium Weed, Cancer Weed, Milkweed.

General Biology. Growth form. Herb. Life form. Annual. Reproduction. Seed. Dispersal. Ants, water, soil movement. Toxicity. Sap is poisonous and irritant.

Notes. Colonises degraded and disturbed sites. Contains natural insecticides. Seed has elaiosomes (fleshy appendages) allowing them to be dispersed by ants.

Additional information. Origin. North Africa, temperate and tropical Asia, Europe. History of use/introduction. Seed contaminant, medicines. Similar exotic species. Euphorbia terracina, E. lathyrus.

Suggested method of management and control. Spray metsulfuron methyl at 0.1 g/15 L (2.5 g/ha) + wetting agent or glyphosate at 0.5% while actively growing. Read the manufacturers' labels and material safety data sheets before using herbicides. For further information consult the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to determine the status of permits for your situation or state.

Management Calendar

Calendar Type Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Comments
Germination       O Y Y Y Y Y Y Y    
Active Growth       O Y Y Y Y Y Y Y O  
Flowering Y O O O O O O Y Y Y Y Y  
Fruiting Y O           O Y Y Y Y  
Herbicide Treatment         O Y Y Y Y O O    

Legend: Y = Yes, regularly, O = Occasionally, U = Uncertain, referred by others but not confirmed.



  • Anon. (2002) Euphorbia peplus (Radium weed). Australian Naturopathic Network URL: - Accessed April 2010.
  • Brown, K. & Brooks, K. (2002) Bushland Weeds: A Practical Guide to their Management. Environmental Weeds Action Network, Greenwood.
  • Gayar, F.H., Shazli, A.Y. & Abbassy, M.A. (2009) Toxicity of Euphorbia peplus L. (Euphorbiaceae) to insects. Zeitschrift für Angewandte Entomologie, 68 (1-4): 56-63.
  • Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Dodd, J., Lloyd, S.G. & Cousens, R.D. (2007) Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. 2nd Edition. The Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Victoria Park.
  • Pemberton, R.W. & Irving, D.W. (2008) Elaiosomes on weed seeds and the potential for myrmecochory in naturalized plants. Weed Science, 38 (6): 615-619.
  • Shepherd, R.C.H. (2004) Pretty but Poisonous. Plants Poisonous to People. An llustrated Guide for Australia. R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Melbourne.
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program (2009) Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. URL: - Accessed October 2009.

Project information and acknowledgements