Euphorbia lathyris - L.
Common Name Caper Spurge, Moleplant
Family Euphorbiaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards The sap contains a latex which is toxic on ingestion and highly irritant externally, causing photosensitive skin reactions and severe inflammation, especially on contact with eyes or open cuts. The toxicity can remain high even in dried plant material[200]. Prolonged and regular contact with the sap is inadvisable because of its carcinogenic nature[214]. The seed is also poisonous[76].
Habitats Woods, avoiding acid soils[17].
Range Europe. Possibly native to Britain but more common as a garden escape.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

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Euphorbia lathyris Caper Spurge, Moleplant
Euphorbia lathyris Caper Spurge, Moleplant
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Euphorbia lathyris is a ANNUAL/BIENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jul to August. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Flies.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.


Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil.

The seed has been used as a substitute for capers. It is very acrid and requires long steeping in salt and water, and afterwards in vinegar[2]. Great caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Abortifacient;  Antiseptic;  Cancer;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Purgative;  Warts.

Caper spurge was used in the past as a violent purgative, whilst the rubefacient action of the leaves was employed by beggars to raise unsightly sores on their skins to elicit pity and thereby obtain more money[254]. All parts of the plant are emetic and purgative[4, 7, 21] and the plant is nowadays considered to be far too toxic for it to be used medicinally[238]. The latex in the stems has been used externally as a depilatory and to remove corns, but it is too irritant to be used safely[7, 254]. The seed is diuretic, parasiticide and purgative[176, 218]. It has been used in the treatment of dropsy, oedema, tumours, amenorrhoea, schistosomiasis, scabies and snake bites[176, 240]. The fresh seed has an antitumor action, effective against acute lymphocytic and granulocytic leukaemia[176]. The plant has anticancer activity[218]. It is also antiseptic, cathartic, emetic and purgative[218]. Use the plant with caution[4, 7, 21]. One seed capsule is said to cause catharsis, several to cause an abortion[207].


Other Uses
Biomass;  Latex;  Oil;  Repellent.

A fine clear oil is obtained from the seed[4, 74]. Yields of 42% have been obtained[240]. The oil rapidly goes rancid and acquires a dangerous acrimony[4]. It is a violent poison, producing violent purging and irritation to the intestines[4]. It can be used medicinally when fresh[4]. A latex in the leaves can be converted into vehicle fuel[160]. Reports suggest potential yields of fuel ranging from 5 to 125 barrels per hectare[218]. The growing plant is said to repel mice and moles, this is said to be most effective in its second year of growth though lots of reports cast doubt on this ability[18, 21, 54, 160].
Cultivation details
Prefers a light well-drained soil in an open position[200]. Prefers a dry soil but grows almost anywhere[1]. Often self-sows freely[1, 17]. Formerly cultivated for its fruit[17] - for the oil contained in the fruit according to another report[74]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[233]. This genus has been singled out as a potential source of latex (for making rubber) for the temperate zone, though no individual species has been singled out[141].
Seed - sow spring in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 20°c.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Readers comment
V Whale   Sat Feb 19 23:12:47 2005
How do you get rid of it? I have bought a property and everywhere I clear it comes up. I have removed all plants but there are thousands of seeds still in the ground,
paddy hunt   Wed Apr 27 08:24:14 2005
i would love some of your spurge as it is said to repel moles. I would be grateful if you could let me know how I can get hold of some thank you
Pedro Juarnez   Wed Feb 21 2007
Well, I sustained moderately severe chemical burns on both forearms from Euphorbia lathyris several years ago, but the moles on my arm persisted. So much for that bit of folklore!
karla   Tue Jul 8 2008
Where can I purchase the Euphorbia lathyris seeds? Thank you, Karla Jones
william earl   Fri Sep 19 2008
hi would love to know where i could buy some plants or seeds. regards bill earl
Donette   Tue Oct 6 2009
I would love to know where to get this plant also to repel Voles and Mice.
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Subject : Euphorbia lathyris  

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