Spurge Laurel

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Invasive Plants, Pacific Northwest

Spurge Laurel, BC Coastal Region
Spurge Laurel, Photo By Bud Logan

Spurge laurel is a new invasive plant for coastal BC. It is also found in warmer parts of the province, in roadsides, moist woods and lowland areas. It prefers shade but tolerates a wide range of conditions.

Almost all parts of the plant are highly poisonous to pets, livestock and humans. The leaves, bark and berries are toxic when eaten or even just touching them can cause skin irritations, blistering, swelling of the tongue, nausea and even a coma from ingesting any part.

Spurge laurel is a slow growing, shade tolerant, long lived evergreen shrub from Europe and the Mediterranean region that has escaped from gardens and naturalized in woodlands and other shady places. Spurge laurel can grow in a wide range of conditions, but it thrives in full to partial shade and well drained soils. Its primary means of spread is by birds and rodents eating the berries although it can also spread vegetatively by root sprouts.

Spurge Laurel, BC Coastal Region
Spurge Laurel, Photo By Bud Logan

It is a threat to native species. it thrives in shady areas. Seeds in its black berries are transported to new habitat by birds and rodents. In its native climate in the Mediterranean, pests and pathogens keep the plant under control, but in British Columbia, it grows unchecked. Unlike many other invasive plant species, it does not require disturbed soil to become established.

It creates dense strands, reducing light reaching the forest floor and limiting the growth of native plant species. As well, spurge laurel may alter soil chemistry and acidity where it germinates, preventing other plants from growing near it.

In British Columbia, it has spread to southern Vancouver Island, the central east Island, the Gulf Islands and the Lower Mainland. It is now showing up further up the coast.

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