This perennial grows up to 3 feet (1 m) tall and has long ascending, thickly clustered stalks. It reproduces by vigorous rootstalks and seed. The roots grow very deeply in most soils and are brown and contain numerous pink buds at the crown or junction of the root and shoots that may produce new shoots. The entire plant contains a milky sap.
The leaves are alternate along the stems, narrow, 1 to 4 inches (2.50-10 cm) long, except the leaves below the flowers which are broadly egg-shaped and half the size.
The flowers are yellowish-green, and small, 1/8 inch (2.5 mm), high. They are arranged in numerous small clusters on the ends of the stalks. A pair of heart-shaped, yellow-green bracts grow immediately below them. Leafy spurge produces oblong, grayish to purple
Seeds are in a 3-celled capsule. Each cell of the capsule contains a single seed. Capsules explode upon drying, projecting seeds as far as 15 feet away. The seeds may be viable in the soil at least 8 years.
Leafy spurge is native to Eurasia and was brought into the United States as a seed impurity about 1827. It is a serious problem in North America where it infests almost 2.5 million acres, mostly in southern Canada and the north central United States. It displaces many species and is very difficult to control once established. It causes severe irritation of the mouth and digestive tract of cattle and may result in death.
Heart-shaped yellow bracts surround the 3-celled seed capsule.
Each cell contains a single seed.
Pink buds which form new shoots and roots are common on leafy spurge crowns and roots. Rooting depths of over 14 feet (4.2 m) are reported with this prolific species.
Found in agricultural settings in Inyo and Mono Counties.