Toxic, invasive weed found on Detroit Metro Airport grounds

Leafy spurge being removed from airport

Leafy spurge. (Wiki)

DETROIT – A toxic weed was found at Detroit Metro Airport.

Euphorbia esula, known as leafy spurge, is not usually found in the United States. The poisonous weed was found at the airport this week and actions are being taken to remove it.

"The Airport Authority wildlife biologists recently discovered leafy spurge, a poisonous weed, on our grounds. Employees, who may come in contact with the weed, were notified. To eradicate the weed, the Airport Authority hired a contractor who is familiar with leafy spurge and knows how to handle it safely. The contractor is spraying today," DTW said in a statement to Local 4.

Leafy spurge is a non-native deep-rooted perennial that spreads by seed and extensive, creeping roots. The roots can extend as deep as 30 feet into the soil and are extremely wide-spreading.

The roots are brown and contain numerous pink buds that generally produce new shoots or roots. Leafy spurge can grow from 1 to 3 feet in height. The stems are smooth, pale green, and thickly clustered. Leaves are alternate, narrow, linear, and 1 to 4 inches long. The flowers are very small and yellowish-green. They are enclosed by very visible yellowish-green, heart-shaped bracts.

The entire plant contains white, milky sap that exudes readily upon a stem or leaf breakage. This sap can damage eyes and sensitive skin. Leafy spurge is one of the earliest plants to emerge in the spring. Flower clusters develop 1 to 2 weeks after stem emergence which is from mid-April to late May.

One large leafy spurge plant can produce up to 130,000 seeds. Three-sided seed capsules explode when ripe and project the seeds up to 15 feet away from the parent plant.

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Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.