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Invasive, noxious weed popping up in C. Oregon gardens prompts warning: Handle myrtle spurge with caution

(Update: Adding video, comments from horticulturist, weed control owner)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A pretty but pesky invasive and noxious weed is making its way into Central Oregon gardens. Experts say myrtle spurge is not something you want around. It's a drought-tolerant plant being used often in home gardens, but despite its attractive look, it's an invasive plant and can displace native plants. 

Local landscapers are on the lookout. Central Oregon Weed Control owner and operator Sid Robinson shared his experience.

"I have a client in Bend that was working with it, wiped her cheek -- and almost went blind from it," Robinson said Thursday.

Myrtle spurge, also known as donkey tail, is a weed you need to handle with caution. Some gardeners like the look of it, as it resembles a succulent.

Robinson says he sees it occasionally on the job.

"When I run across it, I talk to the homeowner about it, about wearing PPE when they're working with it, because it is noxious," he said.

Amy Jo Detweiler, a professor and horticulturist with OSU Extension Service, said myrtle spurge is an invasive weed found in Oregon, Colorado and California.

"The milky latex sap that comes out of it is -- you know, gives contact dermatitis and can be serious for humans that can have a reaction to it, like blistering and that sort of thing," she said.

Established plants spread through seeds -- they can spread 15 feet. It can also spread through root fragments. The weed is also toxic if ingested, making it dangerous for livestock, dogs, cats and kids. 

Sales of it are now restricted at nurseries in Oregon. 

Deschutes County classifies myrtle spurge as a Class B weed, which means it has the potential to cause economic or ecological harm to agriculture, recreation, wildlife and transportation systems.

Detweiler said, "Personally, I am seeing it more in my local neighborhood. I have a couple of neighbors where I'm seeing it pop up that I'm hoping to visit with and talk to them about it."

"One of those cases I know that kids did get I had -- kids that were actually playing in it, and then having a medical reaction to it or a reaction to it," she added.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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