Spurge laurel spotted in Maury Island forest

Have you ever noticed a shrubby evergreen that looks like a cross between a leggy rhododendron and a laurel, but isn’t either one?  It might be spurge laurel, which isn’t actually a spurge or a laurel, but rather an invasive species of Daphne that can really take over in dry forests.

Spurge laurel in a forest on Maury Island.  Photo by Steve Macdonald.

Spurge laurel was spotted by an islander on Maury Island in April. It was growing on the roadside and into the adjacent forest. This is the kind of habitat where it can have a big impact and out-compete understory plants and young trees.

Spurge laurel spotted on Maury Island.  Photo by Steve Macdonald.

Spurge laurel is just now forming fruit in our area, so it’s a good time to remove it to keep it from spreading further. Be careful though. The fruit is toxic to people, although birds eat it and spread the plant into forests. Also, spurge laurel sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation.  If you pull it, wear gloves and make sure to throw it in a yard waste bin or the garbage to avoid spreading it further.  And of course never dump invasive plants in the woods!