| Published: April 26, 2012 – 7:52 pm
Across the landscape of Coupeville to the highest points on Pennington Hill, the invasive, toxic Spurge laurel (Daphne laureola) is invading our gardens, hedgerows, and forests. It is also known as Daphne-laurel, laurel-leaved daphne, olive-spurge, wood laurel, copse laurel. Click here for a photo.
Like Scott’s broom, it is very aggressive and has potential for great environmental harm. It can, and has elsewhere, completely displaced other understory plants like ferns, woodland flowers, Salal, and Oregon grape, etc,. creating a monotonous monoculture. Its aggressive nature and toxicity qualify it as a noxious weed in Washington State. The berries, leaves and bark are poisonous to humans, cats and dogs. Handling the plant can cause contact dermatitis. In adjacent counties (Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Skagit and San Juan) it is already listed as a class “A” noxious weed. This requires property owners to remove the plant. It is in the process of being listed in Island County’s Noxious Weed list.
Spurge laurel is a shade-tolerant, long-lived evergreen shrub from Europe and the Mediterranean region that has escaped from gardens and naturalized in woodlands and other shady places. Spurge laurel can grow in a wide range of conditions, but it thrives in full to partial shade and well-drained soils. Its blue-black berries are attractive to birds and rodents, which are responsible for its propagation. It can also spread by root sprouts. Large plants can reach 8 or 10 feet tall and have a deep taproot making them very difficult to pull.
Autumn is the best time to cut the larger plants at the base and treat the stump with Triclopyr or Glyphosate (Round-Up) directly applied with a 1” sponge brush. Plants up to three years old can be controlled fairly effectively (up to 95% mortality) with a weed whip or similar tool by cutting the plant close to the ground level. Due to the plant’s ability to sprout from suckers, it is advisable to apply herbicide to stems immediately following cutting. Other techniques are being evaluated.
Caution: Due to the irritating toxins in the sap, fruit and leaves, you must wear gloves. It is critical to remove plants before they fruit. In the spring, seedlings and young plants can be hand-pulled. Larger
plants can be pulled with a weed wrench or similar tool, but all of the root should be removed to avoid re-growth from root sprouts. After pulling, the area should be monitored for new seedlings and covered with a deep mulch.
Plants can be brought to any Island County Solid Waste Disposal site and disposed of for free. They do not need to be bagged. You can also bag them and toss them in the trash.
Whidbey Audubon Society and the Whidbey Environmental Action Network have prepared an action plan, which includes mapping this threat and organizing volunteer eradication teams. If you know of plants and or are interested in participating in eradication efforts, contact WEAN: email@example.com or Gary Piazzon at 678-5131 firstname.lastname@example.org.