Flowering Spurge

Euphorbia corollata
Skin irritating

Euphorbiaceae (spurges)


Flowering spurge is a smooth, leafy perennial with a much-branched top. Flowers: when growing on poor ground, only a few, but in rich soils plants may spread as wide as they are tall with a large inflorescence. The floral cups have 5 white false petals surrounding tiny yellow male flowers and a single female flower (this arrangement, called a cyathium, is typical of flowers in the spurge family). Blooms May–October. Leaves alternate on lower stems, sessile, narrowing toward base, ovate, with smooth edges. Leaves at the branching points are in whorls. Leaves in inflorescence are opposite. Leaves and stems are usually hairless but some plants have hairs. The sap is milky and can be skin-irritating.


Height: often to 3 feet.


Photo closeup of flowering spurge flowers
Flowering Spurge Flowers
The floral cups of flowering spurge have 5 white false petals surrounding tiny yellow male flowers and a single female flower.


Photo of flowering spurge leaf whorls around branching points
Flowering Spurge (Leaf Whorls)


Photo showing a large cluster of flowering spurge flowers
Flowering Spurge Flower Clusters
When flowering spurge grows in rich soils, as on native tallgrass prairies, a single plant can produce a profusion of flowers.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in fields, glades, prairies, open woods, rocky places, roadsides, and railroads.

image of Flowering Spurge distribution map
Distribution in Missouri



Spurges are members of the family Euphorbiaceae. Other plants in this family include poinsettias, castor beans, cassava, the Para rubber tree (whose sap is a source of natural rubber), the houseplant called "crown of thorns," and several other cactus lookalikes often used as houseplants. Another relative, prostrate spurge, commonly grows in sidewalk cracks. Common traits include the curious floral arrangement, and milky, skin-irritating sap.

Human connections

As with many other plants containing toxic chemicals, Native Americans used flowering spurge medicinally, for treating constipation, arthritis, and other ailments. The pretty sprays of white flowers look much like the florist's "baby's breath." Toxins in the leaves can kill cattle.

Ecosystem connections

Wild turkey eat several parts of this plant; prairie-chicken, quail, and mourning doves eat the seeds. Deer browse the leaves in spring and summer. Several types of wasps and other insects visit the flowers, and ants might help distribute the seeds.