- evergreen shrub
- 0.5-1.8 metres tall
- glossy, leathery, oblong leaves, 4-13 cm long
- leaves alternate on the stem
- flowers from February to April
- small, inconspicuous, fragrant, greenish-white flowers grow in clusters among the leaves, near the top of the stem
- small, egg-shaped, poisonous, black berries develop by early summer
- resembles a Rhododendron plant
A lethal, invasive shrub that escaped from the garden.
Spurge Laurel is a new invasive plant for British Columbia. It is found in warmer parts of the province, in roadsides, moist woods and lowland areas. It prefers shade but tolerates a wide range of conditions. Almost all parts of the plant are highly poisonous to humans and pets. The leaves, bark and berries are toxic when touched or eaten, and can cause skin irritations, blistering, swelling of the tongue, nausea and even a coma.
Impact on Communities and Native Species
Spurge Laurel is a threat to native species - it thrives in shady areas and grows quickly. Seeds in its black berries are transported to new habitat by birds and rodents. In its native climate in the Mediterranean, pests and pathogens keep the plant under control, but in British Columbia, it grows unchecked. Unlike many other invasive plant species, Spurge Laurel does not require disturbed soil to become established. It creates dense strands, reducing light reaching the forest floor and limiting the growth of native plant species. As well, Spurge Laurel may alter soil chemistry and acidity where it germinates, preventing other plants from growing near it.
As with many invasive plants, Spurge Laurel likely started out as an ornamental shrub in a garden and escaped. In British Columbia, it has spread to southern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Lower Mainland, and shows no sign of stopping.