We need to raise £10,000 from user donations to get our finances in balance. More >>>

Follow Us:


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    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Euphorbia lathyris Caper Spurge, Moleplant

Euphorbia lathyris Caper Spurge, Moleplant


Translate this page:

You can translate the content of this page by selecting a language in the select box.


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 July to August. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is 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

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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 :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Acalypha australisAsian copperleaf01
Alchornea castaneifoliaIporuru04
Alchornea cordifoliaChristmas Bush24
Aleurites cordataJapan Wood-Oil Tree00
Aleurites fordiiTung Tree, Tung Oil Tree, Wood Oil Tree China13
Aleurites moluccanusCandle Nut, Country Walnut33
Caryodendron orinocenseTaccy Nut, Nuez de Barinas31
Chrozophora tinctoriaDyer's Croton, Giradol10
Cnidoscolus aconitifoliusTree Spinach, Tread Softly, Cabbage Star, Chaya43
Croton lechleriSangre De Grado, Dragon's blood04
Croton megalocarpusCroton tree02
Croton palanostigmaSangre De Grado, Dragon's blood04
Croton salutarisSangre De Grado, Dragon's blood04
Euphorbia antisyphiliticaCandelilla20
Euphorbia corollataWild Spurge, Flowering spurge02
Euphorbia drummondiiCaustic Weed01
Euphorbia helioscopiaMadwoman's Milk12
Euphorbia hirtaAsthma Weed, Pill-Bearing Spurge13
Euphorbia humifusa 12
Euphorbia ipecacuanhaeAmerican Ipec01
Euphorbia marginataMountain Snow, Ghost Spurge, Ghost Weed11
Euphorbia pekinensisDa Ji03
Euphorbia serpyllifoliaThymeleaf Sandmat22
Euphorbia sieboldiana 12
Euphorbia tetragonaNaboom11
Euphorbia thomsoniana 01
Euphorbia tirucalliAfrican Milkbush, Pencil Cactus, Milk Bush02
Glochidion eriocarpum 02
Glochidion puberumNeedlebush02


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

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.

QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.

2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.

3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the pfaf.org website on their phone.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at admin@pfaf.org. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Euphorbia lathyris  
All the information contained in these pages is Copyright (C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2012.
Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567,
Web Design & Management
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some information cannot be used for commercial reasons or be modified (but some can). Please view the copyright link for more information.