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Sea Spurge

Euphorbia paralias

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Beaches, rocky places, sand dunes, seaside.

Green, no petals
Cup-shaped, yellowish-green flowers with leafy bracts.
A wrinkly capsule, containing 3 large seeds. The seeds are capable of floating in water.
Bluish-green, stalkless, succulent, oval leaves. The midrib is hidden on the underside of the leaf. The leaves are compactly crowded together close to the stem.
Other Names:
Seashore Spurge.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Euphorbia paralias, also known as seashore spurge, is a perennial plant that is native to coastal areas of Europe and western Asia. It typically grows in sandy or rocky habitats, and can reach a height of up to 50 cm. The plant has narrow, linear leaves and small, yellow-green flowers that bloom in the summer. It is often used in coastal landscaping and erosion control projects.


Sea spurge, also known as Euphorbia paralias, is a type of flowering plant that grows in coastal areas throughout the Mediterranean and the eastern Atlantic. It is a member of the Euphorbia family, which includes many species of succulent and drought-resistant plants.

Sea spurge is a small, bushy plant that typically grows to a height of around 30-50 centimeters. Its stems are green and fleshy, and they produce small, yellow-green flowers that bloom in the summer months. The plant's leaves are also green and fleshy, and they are arranged in pairs along the stem.

Despite its small size, sea spurge can have a significant impact on the ecosystems in which it grows. The plant is considered to be invasive in many parts of the world, including the United States, where it has been introduced along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In these areas, sea spurge can outcompete native plants for resources, and it can disrupt the natural balance of the local ecosystems.

One of the reasons why sea spurge is so successful as an invasive species is that it has a number of adaptations that allow it to thrive in harsh coastal environments. For example, the plant is able to tolerate saltwater spray, which can damage the leaves and stems of other plants. Sea spurge is also able to survive in soils with high levels of salt, which can be toxic to many other types of plants.

Despite its invasive nature, sea spurge does have some potential uses. For example, the plant contains a number of bioactive compounds that have been found to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some research has also suggested that sea spurge may have potential as a biofuel crop, as its seeds contain high levels of oil.

Sea spurge is an interesting and versatile plant that has both positive and negative impacts on the environments in which it grows. As with many invasive species, it is important to manage and control the spread of sea spurge in order to protect native ecosystems and biodiversity. At the same time, further research may reveal new potential uses for this intriguing plant.

Sea spurge is often found growing in sandy soils along beaches and dunes, where it can form dense colonies that outcompete other plants for resources. This can lead to a reduction in biodiversity, as other plants and animals are forced out of the area. In addition, sea spurge can have negative impacts on the local economy, as it can reduce the recreational value of beaches and coastal areas.

Efforts to control sea spurge are ongoing in many parts of the world. In some areas, mechanical methods such as pulling or cutting the plants have been used to reduce their spread. In other cases, herbicides have been applied to control sea spurge populations. However, these methods can be time-consuming and costly, and they may have unintended impacts on other plants and animals in the area.

Another approach to controlling sea spurge is to introduce natural predators or pathogens that can help to reduce the plant's population. For example, in some areas of the United States, a type of moth known as the spurge hawkmoth has been introduced to control sea spurge populations. This approach has been somewhat successful, but it is not without its risks, as the introduction of non-native species can have unintended impacts on the local ecosystem.

Despite the challenges posed by sea spurge, there is still much to learn about this fascinating plant. Ongoing research is exploring the plant's potential uses, as well as ways to manage and control its spread in the wild. By better understanding sea spurge and its impacts on the environment, we can work to protect the natural world while still making use of the plant's many potential benefits.

In addition to its potential medicinal and industrial uses, sea spurge is also an interesting plant from a biological perspective. It has a number of unique adaptations that allow it to survive and thrive in harsh coastal environments. For example, the plant has specialized glands on its leaves that excrete excess salt, which helps it to tolerate high levels of salt in the soil. Sea spurge also has an extensive root system that can grow up to 2 meters deep, allowing it to access water and nutrients in dry or sandy soils.

Another interesting feature of sea spurge is its reproductive strategy. The plant produces both male and female flowers on the same plant, which allows for self-fertilization. However, sea spurge also has the ability to reproduce vegetatively, meaning that new plants can grow from pieces of stem or root that break off and take root in the soil. This can help the plant to quickly spread and colonize new areas.

Despite its negative impacts in some areas, sea spurge is still a valuable and important part of many coastal ecosystems. The plant provides important habitat and food sources for a variety of insects and other small animals, and it helps to stabilize soils and prevent erosion. By understanding the ecological role of sea spurge and working to manage its populations in a responsible way, we can help to protect the unique and fragile ecosystems of the world's coasts.

Sea spurge is not the only species of Euphorbia that is found in coastal areas. In fact, the Euphorbia family includes many species that are adapted to living in dry or arid environments, including deserts and rocky outcrops. Many of these species have fleshy, succulent stems and leaves that help them to store water in times of drought.

One of the most well-known members of the Euphorbia family is the cactus-like Euphorbia obesa, which is native to South Africa. This plant has a distinctive, globular shape and is often cultivated as a houseplant or ornamental species. However, like many other members of the Euphorbia family, Euphorbia obesa is also highly poisonous and can cause skin irritation or even death if ingested.

Another interesting member of the Euphorbia family is the tree-like Euphorbia ingens, which is native to southern Africa. This plant can grow up to 12 meters tall and has a thick, smooth trunk that is covered in a layer of spines. Like sea spurge and other Euphorbia species, Euphorbia ingens is able to survive in harsh environments thanks to its ability to store water and tolerate high levels of salt in the soil.

Overall, the Euphorbia family is a diverse and fascinating group of plants that includes many species with unique adaptations and uses. Whether they are found in coastal areas, deserts, or rocky outcrops, Euphorbia plants are an important and valuable part of many ecosystems around the world. By understanding and appreciating these remarkable plants, we can work to protect and preserve the natural world for future generations.


Video 1: Sea Spurge filmed in Thorpeness, Suffolk on the 1st July 2022.


Video 2: Sea Spurge filmed at Morecambe, Lancashire on the 23rd October 2022.


Music credits (for Video 2)
Exciting Trailer by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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