by Pam Zubeck
El Paso County is encouraging residents to get rid of myrtle spurge and cypress spurge by exchanging these plants for free Colorado native plants at the "Purge Your Spurge" event from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, at Cottonwood Creek Park.
Myrtle spurge and cypress spurge are invasive ornamental plants. They are commonly used in rock gardens and xeriscaping, but the plants rapidly escape the garden setting and invade sensitive ecosystems, out-competing native vegetation and reducing wildlife forage. For this reason, both Myrtle spurge and Cypress spurge have been designated as “List A” species under the Colorado Noxious Weed Act, which means they are required to be eradicated wherever they are found in Colorado. Noxious weeds are defined as those that cause injury to physical health.
Both Myrtle spurge and Cypress spurge are low-growing perennial plants that are distinguishable by their yellowish-green flowers. The plants contain a milky sap that can cause severe skin irritations, so caution should be taken to avoid contact with bare skin or eyes. These plants are toxic to both humans and animals; horses and cattle should not be pastured where spurges grow.
The key to effective control of spurges is to remove the plants before they set seed. To assist citizens in controlling these invasive plants, the El Paso County Environmental Division of Community Services has partnered with the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services, the Black Forest Slash-Mulch Committee (SAMCOM), and Pulling for Colorado to provide the “Purge Your Spurge” event.
Just dig up your spurge plants, remembering to wear protective eyewear and clothing while doing so. Remove at least 4 inches of the root clump and securely bag the plants. Bring them to the event site, and receive free native plants in 1-gallon pots. There is no limit on the amount of spurge that can be turned in; however, the free native plants will be available on a “first come, first served” basis.
Eliminating these invasive noxious weeds requires a conscientious, wide-spread attack by everyone who has these plants on their property. Take advantage of this “Purge Your Spurge” event to replace these harmful weeds with beautiful Colorado native alternatives.