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Leafy spurge weeds can grow in abundance unless eradicated

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By Sylvia Brockner

It’s beginning to look a lot like autumn, I’m unhappy to say. Seldom does autumn come this early, but the drought seems to have made plants mature early, and many of the late summer and autumn flowers are blooming or past blooming already.


When any plant is stressed by drought or any other condition, they do what all plants do: They bloom and produce seeds to carry on the species. Last week, Sylvia Robertson brought me a plant specimen taken from a large patch at Evergreen Lake.
This is a real cause for concern for the plant looks like leafy spurge. If this is what it turns out to be, it is past its summer blooming time and well into its autumn appearance with well-developed seed heads and the foliage taking on a look of autumn with shades of reddish-purple rather than its usual yellowish-green.
This plant was formerly in the genus Euphorbia, along with some other spurges. In recent years, it has been moved into the genus Tithymalus. It is still in the spurge family and still bears the common name of leafy spurge. There are two very similar species known as leafy spurge, and I believe this to be the one known as Tithymalus uralensis as it was the more common of the two.
Tithymalus uralensis is, to quote from Weber’s “Colorado Flora, an “alien, noxious weed, locally abundant in the piedmont valleys and in mountain meadows.” The other very similar species is T. esula. Both of these plants were accidentally imported as weed seed in imported grain. A few years ago, one of these species of leafy spurge was very abundant in the valley through which Colorado Highway 65 runs from Bergen Park to Interstate 70. Somehow, they have found a way to control it for I saw very little there this spring.
I have no knowledge of what they did to control it, but I suspect they used some herbicide for that is about the only way to control these very troublesome weeds. Leafy spurge can reproduce from seed for they produce seeds that can remain viable in the soil for up to eight years. But like the Canada thistle, they also reproduce from underground root runners. In other words, if you pull one plant and the root breaks into pieces, you will create a new plant for every piece left in the soil.
Between cold cloudy days and hot sunny days, summer has flown by very quickly. I hate to see fall come so early for winter is too long, and snow and ice make it more difficult for me to get out. However, I noticed today that my Virginia creeper vine has turned all brown, and its leaves are withered. This could be due to the drought, but I fear it is due to an infestation of white flies. It is a native vine that has big five-part leaves that normally begin to turn a bright dark red about now.
I love the rich color and usually the leaves hang on until Thanksgiving. I’m afraid I’m a bit late, but I will give it a drink of water, so the roots will survive the winter and hope for better next year. This vine also produces dark-blue berries that are attractive to many birds.
The wild rose hips behind my house are turning red, and the aspen grove that I see from my window already is getting that sickly yellowish-green color that they get before they turn to gold. All of these things seem to be about two weeks earlier than usual. I hope the first snow doesn’t follow the same pattern.
I still have many young birds coming to my feeders. They have learned quickly where the food is, and several people have reported that pine siskins have increased at their feeders. I have about 10 or 12 at my feeders after none all summer, and Mike Krieger reported more than 100 at his feeder near Bailey.