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Weed of the Month – Wild Poinsettia / Desert Poinsettia

Wild Poinsettia / Desert Poinsettia (Euphorbia heterophylla var. cyathophora)

This North American native plant is a relative of the popular holiday poinsettia. Both plants are members of the euphorbia family. This plant is sometimes grown for the colorful green and orange bracts, but it is considered a weed.

Wild poinsettia habit. Jackie Jordan, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Wild poinsettia habit.
Jackie Jordan, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Close up of orange- red bracts on wild poinsettia. Jackie Jordan, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Close up of orange- red bracts on wild poinsettia.
Jackie Jordan, ©2021, Clemson Extension

This summer annual can produce about 4500 seeds and propel them up to three feet away from the mother plant once the seed pod matures. The seeds can germinate even when located deeper in the soil column. Wild Poinsettia is also allelopathic, meaning it can produce chemical compounds that it releases into the soil to limit competition from other plants. It has a milky sap that can cause skin irritation and is poisonous if ingested.

The plant thrives in infertile soils, grows in full sun to part shade conditions, and can tolerate dry to moist conditions. It has attractive, unusual fiddle-shaped leaves and is appealing to pollinators.

Mechanical damage provides ineffective control because the plant will quickly regrow from auxiliary buds. Hand pulling is effective if the entire root system is removed. Herbicides can provide effective control. For recommendations, please consult with your local extension office or contact the Home and Garden Information Center.

For more information on managing weeds, see HGIC 2310, Managing Weeds in Warm Season Lawns and HGIC 2309, Managing Weeds in a Fescue Lawn.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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