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Cypress Spurge

Euphorbia cyparissias

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, scrub, seaside, walls, wasteland, woodland.

Green, no petals
The flowers of Cypress Spurge are small and delicate, boasting a vibrant yellow hue that brightens the landscape. Each flower consists of numerous tiny petals arranged in a circular fashion, forming a charming star-like shape. These blooms gracefully adorn the slender stems of the plant, creating a striking contrast against the backdrop of green foliage. Despite their diminutive size, the flowers exude a subtle beauty that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies, contributing to the rich tapestry of the British countryside.
The fruit of Cypress Spurge is comprised of small capsules that develop after the flowering period. These capsules, known as seed pods, possess a rounded shape and are typically green in colour, gradually transitioning to a pale brown hue as they mature. Within each pod lie numerous tiny seeds, each encapsulated within a protective covering. As the fruit matures, the pods split open, dispersing the seeds to the surrounding environment. This mechanism facilitates the propagation of Cypress Spurge, allowing it to colonise new areas and thrive in diverse habitats across the British landscape.
The leaves of Cypress Spurge are lanceolate in shape, tapering to a point at both ends. They exhibit a deep green colouration and possess a smooth, glossy texture, lending them a distinctive appearance. These leaves are arranged alternately along the stems of the plant and feature prominent veins running through their surface. Despite their slender form, Cypress Spurge leaves are sturdy and resilient, providing essential photosynthetic function to support the growth and development of the plant. Their glossy sheen reflects sunlight, enhancing their ability to capture and utilize energy for vital biological processes.
Cypress Spurge is not typically known for its aroma. The plant's fragrance is generally subtle and understated, with no distinctive or notable scent. While some individuals may detect a faint, earthy aroma when in close proximity to the plant, it is not a characteristic feature that is commonly associated with Cypress Spurge. Instead, the plant is primarily appreciated for its visual appeal, with its vibrant flowers and glossy foliage adding beauty to the landscape.
Other Names:
Bonaparte's Crown, Cemetery Spurge, Faitour's Grass, Graveyard Ground Pine, Graveyard Weed, Irish Moss, Kiss-me-Dick, Love in a Huddle, Tree Spurge, Welcome-to-our-house.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Euphorbia cyparissias, also known as Cypress spurge or Cemetery spurge, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to Europe. It is a member of the Euphorbia family and is known for its small, bright green, cup-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer. The plant can grow up to 50 cm tall and has a spreading habit. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. It is commonly used as a ground cover or in rock gardens and is also used as a plant for cemeteries. As with all Euphorbias, the sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation and stomach upset if ingested. It is also considered as an invasive species in some areas.


Cypress spurge, scientifically known as Euphorbia cyparissias, is a perennial plant species that belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is native to Europe and Western Asia but has been introduced in North America, where it is considered an invasive species in some regions. Cypress spurge is a striking plant that can add ornamental value to gardens, but it is essential to understand its growth characteristics and potential ecological impact before introducing it into new environments.

Physical Characteristics

Cypress spurge is a herbaceous plant that typically grows up to 20-50 cm tall. It has narrow, lance-shaped leaves that grow in opposite pairs and can range from 1 to 5 cm long. The plant produces small, bright yellow flowers in the spring and early summer, which are arranged in clusters called cyathia. These flowers are surrounded by a showy, bright yellow bract that looks like a petal. The plant's stem and leaves exude a milky sap that can cause skin irritation in some people.

Ecological Impact

Cypress spurge is a resilient plant that can thrive in a wide range of environmental conditions, including disturbed soils and dry, rocky areas. In addition to its ornamental value, it can be used to control soil erosion and as a ground cover in areas where other plants struggle to grow. However, its ability to spread rapidly and outcompete native plant species has made it a concern in some regions where it has been introduced. The plant's toxic sap can also cause problems for grazing animals that may inadvertently ingest it.

Control Measures

If you decide to plant Cypress spurge in your garden, it is essential to monitor its growth and take steps to prevent it from spreading into the wild. The plant can produce up to 5000 seeds per plant, and its roots can spread over 1 meter per year, making it challenging to control once established. Some effective control measures include hand-pulling or cutting the plant before it flowers and removing any seedlings that emerge. Applying mulch or using a pre-emergent herbicide can also be effective in preventing the plant from spreading.

Cypress spurge is an attractive plant that can add color and texture to gardens, but its invasive nature and toxic sap make it a concern in some regions. If you choose to plant Cypress spurge, it is essential to be aware of its growth characteristics and take steps to prevent it from spreading into the wild. By being mindful of its impact on the environment, we can enjoy the beauty of Cypress spurge without causing harm to native ecosystems.

Uses and Benefits

Cypress spurge has been used for medicinal purposes in the past, although it is not commonly used in modern medicine. The plant's sap contains a compound called euphorbia, which has been used to treat skin conditions, warts, and tumors. However, the sap is also highly toxic and can cause skin irritation, so it should be used with caution.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal value, Cypress spurge has been used as a dye plant in the past. The plant's sap can be used to produce a yellow dye that was traditionally used to color textiles and leather.

Growing Cypress Spurge

If you decide to grow Cypress spurge in your garden, it is best to plant it in a sunny or partially shaded area with well-draining soil. The plant can tolerate a wide range of soil types, but it prefers dry or rocky soils. Cypress spurge is a hardy plant that can withstand drought and cold temperatures, making it an excellent choice for gardeners in colder climates.

Propagation can be done by sowing seeds in the spring or by dividing established plants in the fall. The plant can also be propagated through stem cuttings, but it is important to handle the plant with care, as its sap can cause skin irritation.

Cypress spurge is a beautiful and hardy plant that can add color and texture to gardens, but its invasive nature and toxic sap make it a concern in some regions. If you choose to plant Cypress spurge, it is essential to be mindful of its impact on the environment and take steps to prevent it from spreading into the wild. With proper care and management, Cypress spurge can be a valuable addition to gardens and landscapes, providing ornamental, medicinal, and dyeing benefits.

More Information

One interesting aspect of Cypress spurge is its ability to adapt to a range of environmental conditions. It can grow in soils with high levels of heavy metals, such as lead and zinc, making it a candidate for phytoremediation, a process that uses plants to remove pollutants from the soil. This characteristic has led to research on the use of Cypress spurge for environmental remediation, particularly in areas with contaminated soils.

However, it is important to note that the use of Cypress spurge for phytoremediation is still in the research stage, and there are concerns about the potential for the plant to spread and become invasive in new environments.

Overall, Cypress spurge is a plant that has both benefits and drawbacks, depending on how it is used and managed. With proper care and attention, it can be a valuable addition to gardens and landscapes, providing beauty and unique characteristics. However, it is important to be aware of its potential ecological impact and take measures to prevent its spread and control its growth in sensitive areas. By using this plant responsibly, we can appreciate its beauty and potential benefits while protecting our natural ecosystems.

30 Cypress Spurge Facts

  1. Cypress Spurge, scientifically known as Euphorbia cyparissias, is a perennial herbaceous plant native to Europe and Western Asia.
  2. It belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family, which includes a diverse range of flowering plants.
  3. Cypress Spurge is also commonly referred to as Graveyard Moss, Graveyard Grass, or Leafy Spurge.
  4. Despite its name, Cypress Spurge is not a true spurge (Euphorbia), but it resembles one due to its milky sap and similar growth habit.
  5. The plant typically grows in dense mats or clumps, spreading via underground rhizomes.
  6. Cypress Spurge thrives in dry, rocky habitats, such as meadows, grasslands, and open woodlands.
  7. It is known for its attractive foliage, consisting of narrow, lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately along the stems.
  8. The leaves are typically bright green and may develop a reddish tint in autumn.
  9. Cypress Spurge produces small, yellow-green flowers in spring to early summer, arranged in clusters called cyathia.
  10. The flowers lack petals but have showy bracts that resemble petals, giving the appearance of tiny flowers surrounded by yellow-green leaves.
  11. The plant's flowers are pollinated by insects, particularly bees and butterflies.
  12. After flowering, Cypress Spurge develops seed capsules containing small seeds, which are dispersed by mechanical means or by ants.
  13. The plant's sap is milky and can cause skin irritation in some individuals, so handling with caution is advised.
  14. Cypress Spurge is considered invasive in many regions due to its aggressive growth habit and ability to outcompete native vegetation.
  15. It can form dense monocultures, displacing native plants and reducing biodiversity.
  16. Efforts to control Cypress Spurge often involve mechanical removal, herbicide application, or biological control using insects that feed on the plant.
  17. Despite its invasive tendencies, Cypress Spurge has been cultivated as an ornamental plant for its attractive foliage and ability to thrive in challenging conditions.
  18. In traditional herbal medicine, certain parts of Cypress Spurge have been used cautiously for their potential medicinal properties, although its toxicity limits its use.
  19. The plant's common name, Cypress Spurge, may stem from its resemblance to the foliage of cypress trees and its spurge-like growth habit.
  20. Cypress Spurge is tolerant of poor soil conditions and drought once established, making it suitable for xeriscaping and low-maintenance landscaping.
  21. It is deer-resistant, making it a suitable option for gardens in areas with high deer populations.
  22. Cypress Spurge can be propagated through division of rhizomes or by collecting and sowing seeds.
  23. The plant's dense growth habit provides habitat and shelter for small wildlife, such as insects and ground-dwelling birds.
  24. In some regions, Cypress Spurge is listed as a noxious weed due to its invasive nature and impact on ecosystems.
  25. The plant's rapid spread can be challenging to control, requiring ongoing management efforts.
  26. Cypress Spurge has been introduced to North America and other parts of the world, where it has become naturalized and invasive in some areas.
  27. The plant's ability to thrive in a variety of soil types and environmental conditions contributes to its success as an invasive species.
  28. In areas where Cypress Spurge is invasive, it can negatively impact agriculture, grazing lands, and natural habitats.
  29. Efforts to prevent the spread of Cypress Spurge often involve education, early detection, and coordinated control measures.
  30. Despite its invasive tendencies, Cypress Spurge remains a fascinating subject for botanical study and ecological research, highlighting the complex interactions between introduced species and native ecosystems.


Cypress Spurge filmed at Hightown in Lancashire on the 20th May 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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