Mole Plant (Gopher Spurge) Euphorbia lathyris
Common Name : Mole Plant, Gopher Spurge, Gopher Plant, Caper Spurge
Botanical Name : Euphorbia lathyris
Type : Annual/Biennial
Height : 36 - 48 inches
Width : 12 inches
Bloom Time : May - June
Bloom Color : Inconspicuous Greenish-Yellow
Habit : Erect
Foliage : Green with conspicuous white midveins
Fruit : A smooth green capsule that is 8mm
Attributes : *Has stems tha contain a sap which is poisonous and caustic and is said to deter moles and gophers.
Mole Plants are erect plants with lanceolate leaves with a conspicuous white midvein. This plant emit a milky sap when cut readily identifies them as a Euphorbia species.
It is fast growing and can grow up to 48in tall.
As a biennial, it will send up stems of leaves in its first year and flower in its second year. The flowers themselves tend to be inconspicuous and are yellow-green in color. The flowers give rise to fruit which are classified as globose capsules which are coarsely wrinkled and 2”-4” long with 3 lobes. It is said to deter moles and any other subterranean pests. They do not to like the scent exuded by the roots into the soil, or the taste it gives to worms.
Uses : When spaced at 40-feet apart, around the garden this herb is said to act as a border plant around flowers, vegetable gardens and other herbs and is effective in deterring moles.
Harvest : Do Not Harvest
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction be sure to wear gloves.
History : Mole Plant has a long history as a medicinal plant, it was known to Theophrastus (371 - 287BC). The genus was named after Euphorbes (50BC - AD23), the personal physician to the Numidian King Juba II, who is said to have discovered the toxic and curative potential of the white and milky sap in the plant. The word Euphorbus derives from the Greek eu meaning ‘good’ and phorbe meaning ‘pasture or fodder’ thus giving the meaning ‘well fed.’ Some sources suggest that Juba was amused by the play upon words and chose his physician's name for the plant because of its succulent nature and because of Euphorbus' corpulent physique. Native of the Mediterranean, a native to southern Europe, South Africa and Asia and as far east as China. It was first cultivated as medicinal or ornamental, escaping and self-seeding along the East and West coasts of the United States. Introduced to the U.S. "to repel rodents in an orchard".
All parts of the plant are emetic and purgative and is nowadays considered to be too toxic for it to be used medicinally. The latex in the stems has been used externally as a depilatory but it is too much of an irritant to be used safely. Beggars sometimes used the leaves to create unsightly skin sores, which would cause passers by to give them more money out of pity. The French are said to have eaten the seeds as a purgative even though they are as toxic as the plant.
The common name of Caper Spurge takes its name from the seed pods which look like capers but are very poisonous.
Sun : Full Sun
Water : Average
Maintenance : Easy
Spacing : 6 - 9 inches to 40 feet
Soil : Well Drained/light, Dry, Sandy
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Mole plant is reported to tolerate drought, frost, and poor soils.
The flowers are often removed as they fade to prevent the garden becoming a forest of its seedlings.