Herbs & Plants

Euphorbia peplus

Botanical Name: Euphorbia peplus
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malpighiales
Genus: Euphorbia
Species: E. peplus

Common Names: Petty spurge, Radium weed, Cancer weed, or Milkweed

Habitat: Euphorbia peplus’s native range is very widely naturalised and often invasive, including in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and other countries in temperate and sub-tropical regions. It can typically be found on cultivated, arable land, gardens, and other disturbed areas. Outside of its native range, it is widely naturalized and often invasive. No specific data are available on seed dormancy and germination but plants are prolific seed producers and emerge beginning in the cool weather of fall and continue through late spring.

Euphorbia peplus is a herbaceous annual plant growing to 5–30 cm (2–12 in) tall (most plants growing as weeds of cultivation tend towards the smaller end), with smooth hairless stems. The leaves are oval-acute, 1–3 cm (0.4–1.2 in) long, with a smooth margin. It has green flowers in three-rayed umbels.This plant flowers most of the year. The glands, typical of the Euphorbiaceae, are kidney-shaped with long thin horns.


As a general rule, Spurge requires well-drained soil in full sun. They will tolerate shadier conditions, but none of the family is fussy about soil condition. They even thrive in very poor soils and can tolerate periods of drought.

Spurge grows quite well from seeds sown indoors in pots. You can propagate Euphorbia more quickly and easily by gathering up the “volunteers” around an established plant. You may also root stem cuttings in a soilless medium, such as peat. Keep them lightly misted and enclose the pot in a bag to keep moisture in. Let the pot breathe once a day for an hour, so the soil does not mold. Once the cutting has rooted, you can pot it in regular soil or plant outdoors in moderate climates. One of the more important growing tips for Euphorbia is to let the stem cutting dry for a few days before planting. This allows the sap to form a callus on the cut end and prevents rotting.

Medicinal uses:
The plant’s sap is toxic to rapidly replicating human tissue, and has long been used as a traditional remedy for common skin lesions. The active ingredient in the sap is a diterpene ester called ingenol mebutate. A pharmaceutical-grade ingenol mebutate gel has approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of actinic keratosis.

In Germany, recent studies have linked Euphorbia peplus with the virtual elimination of Bowen disease.

Known Hazards: This plant has low severity poison characteristics.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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