Sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias)

Sea spurge is a small, upright, multi-stemmed perennial shrub, with fleshy blue-green leaves and green flowers. It is an environmental weed of coastal dunes.

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How does this weed affect you?

Sea spurge is a coastal weed that grows in thick patches along the dunes closest to the water. It spreads quickly and:

  • stops natural movement of sand along beaches
  • changes the natural shape and structure of dunes
  • ruins nesting areas for threatened shorebirds
  • reduces the number of native plants
  • limits walkers and beach users access
  • releases a poisonous sap that can irritate skin and eyes.
Human health

Damaged plants release a milky sap that can irritate the skin and be painful if it comes into contact with eyes.

What to do if a person is poisoned:
  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

What does it look like?

Sea spurge is a small, upright, multi-stemmed shrub that usually grows between 20 and 70 cm tall. It has fleshy, blue-green leaves and small yellow-green flowers.

Each year new stems grow in spring from the root crown. Flowers appear between September and May. After flowering stems die off and are replaced with new ones the next spring.

Stems:
  • upright
  • fleshy
  • branched near tips
  • several, usually less than ten
  • ooze a milky sap when damaged
  • die off after flowering, replaced by new shoots from the roots.
Leaves:
  • fleshy blue-green
  • 5-30 mm long
  • tightly packed along the stem.
Flowers:
  • small
  • yellow-green
  • cup-shaped
  • on end of stems.
Fruit:
  • capsules
  • 3-5 mm long and 4.5-6 mm wide.
Seeds:
  • smooth
  • pale grey
  • oval or rounded
  • 2.5–3.5 mm long.
Roots:
  • long-lived
  • woody crown
  • long taproot
Similar looking plants

Sea spurge may be confused with coast candles (Stackhousia spathulata), but these plants do not ooze sap like sea spurge does.

Where is it found?

Sea spurge is a weed of coastal areas. It prefers sandy, free draining soils and is not affected by salt.

It is mainly found along beaches, anywhere from the high water mark to rear dunes. Plants can grow on bare sand and are also found around:

  • estuaries (river mouths)
  • rocky foreshores
  • rock shelves
  • coastal lakes.

It can also invade inland areas of native vegetation near beaches, including native grasslands, coastal heaths and scrublands.

Plants that have been buried by moving sand can keep growing when re-exposed.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Sea spurge during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2020)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

Sea spurge spreads by seeds. Spread can be:

  • a few metres from the parent plant when seeds ‘explode’ out of their capsules
  • long-distance- seeds can float in sea water for several years. They move around on ocean currents, sometimes washing up on far-away beaches.

Seeds can also be spread by vehicles, ballast water or contaminated sand or soil.

References

Australian Government (n.d.) Euphorbia paralias

DPIPWE (n.d) Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias) Weed Management Guide.

James T A and Harden G J (1990) Orbea variegata in PlantNET - The Plant Information Network System of The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia.

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Control

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 200 g/L (Staraneā„¢)
Rate: 500 mL to 1 L per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Staraneā„¢ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Brush-off®)
Rate: 10 - 20 g per 100 L water plus surfactant
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Greater Sydney
Exclusion zone: whole region except the core infestation area of Sutherland Shire.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: Land managers should mitigate spread from their land. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Notify local control authority if found. Core area: Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land.
Hunter
Exclusion zone: whole region except for the core infestation area of Yaccaba Peninsula, Hawks Nest.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should mitigate spread from their land. Land managers to reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
North Coast Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
South East
Exclusion zone: whole region except for the core infestation area of Eurobodalla and Bega Valley councils
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. Plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Core area: Land managers reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfill the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2020