Flowering Spurge is an Overlooked Native Plant
Updated: Sep 5, 2021
I just realized the summer is disappearing and I haven’t shared much about the native plants growing in my little wildlife sanctuary since National Native Plant Month back in April. I tend to focus on the live action drama unfolding outside and take the plants for granted a bit. Native plants are the cornerstone of the life in my rewilded yard, so before this month is over, I’m going to try to profile 30 that are still flowering or of interest. I’ll see if I can override my brain and not get stuck on over-organizing by color this time. I should still be able to squeeze in the wonders I find in my yard between the plant posts! (My goal next year is to share all the mid-summer flowers that are now gone)
#1 on the September native plant list is a sweet, unassuming, and interesting plant called flowering spurge (euphorbia corollata) that looks a bit like non-native baby’s breath and flowers for months starting in May.
If you look closely, you will see it seems to always have some sort of tiny insect on it including small bees, wasps, flies. ants and spiders. Mourning doves eat the itty-bitty seeds.
Flowering spurge thrives in full sun, but mine is thriving in a dry, partially sunny area of my rewilded Atlanta yard. This is a gentle plant that does not compete well with more aggressive plants. Flowering spurge has a taproot so does not like to be transplanted once established. I successfully moved it in early spring when it was in a spot where the plants around it were overwhelming it.
The Cherokee used a tea made from the root of this toxic plant as a laxative. The name comes from the Latin word meaning "to purge". Careful if you break a stem because the white, milky sap will irritate the skin.
The white flower petals are not petals but leaves (think poinsettia which is in the same euphorbia family) and the tiny yellow center is actually a cluster of flowers. This is why you will find the tiniest of pollinators on flowering spurge.
I try not to buy plants from outside the southeast, but my flowering spurge was gifted to me from my mother's neighbor in Massachusetts who was a native plant gardener and told me what a special plant this was. I'm glad she gave it to me. It is not yet common enough to be at native plants nurseries, but the good news is the seeds can be found online. I just learned about a new nursery called Stolen Flowers Farm & Nursery in Northwest Georgia that said they will have this plant next spring. Hopefully as native plants become more popular, sweet and steady plants like flowering spurge will be easier to add to the landscape.