Environment & Public Lands
3:14 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Utah's Spurge Scourge Targeted in Weekend Event

Spurge in the foothills below Grandeur Peak near Parley's Canyon is targeted in a volunteer cleanup this week.
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Spring means spurge in Utah. And Salt Lake County is recruiting people to help purge the pretty -- but invasive -- weed.

“Spurge started out as a beautiful ornamental,” says Julie Peck-Dabling, open space coordinator for Salt Lake County. “It looks great in rock gardens, and that’s why it does so well in our open spaces and our arid environment. It’s very hardy, very water-wise. But it soon jumped out of people’s gardens and into our native open spaces and trails. And it just starts taking over and choking out everything else.”

Dabling-Peck says spurge spreads quickly. And its seeds tend to survive composting. Myrtle spurge, as it’s sometimes known, also contains a poisonous sap that’s harmful to skin and eyes.

She plucks off a yellowish flower, the sap drips onto her hand, and Dabling-Peck quickly wipes it off.

“Oftentimes, kids have found this in a garden or outside and thought, ‘Wow, look at this fun stuff, it’s like war paint’,” she says. “They put stripes on themselves and then wind up in Primary Children’s [Hospital] because it can blister your skin.”

Purge up close.
Credit Tony Frates / Flickr Creative Commons

Two community weed pulls are scheduled for Saturday morning. One is at the Parley’s Canyon access to Grandeur Peak. Another is at the Dimple Dell Park Wrangle Trailhead.

Volunteers should bring gloves and wear long sleeves. At the Salt Lake City REI, people can turn in the spurge they’ve pulled from public places or their own backyards. They’ll trade up to 5 water-wise, native plants in exchange for the plants.

More information is available online on the Purge Your Spurge web page.