Euphorbia terracina (false caper)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Euphorbia terracina L.
Preferred Common Name
- false caper
International Common Names
- English: Geraldton carnation spurge; Geraldton carnation weed
- Portuguese: leitera
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Euphorbia terracina can invade cool, wet areas in addition to hot, dry areas. It is an aggressive weed, forming dense monocultures through competition and allelopathy, inhibiting the growth of native plants including economically important crops. Additionally, the weed produces a toxic sap. False caper thrives in disturbed grasslands, coastal bluffs, dunes, salt marshes, riparian areas and oak woodlands. Livestock avoid the plant and, due to its toxic nature, do not consume it.
E. terracina is listed as a noxious weed in Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), was added to the US Federal Noxious Weed List and seed list in 2010, and is regulated in California.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Euphorbiales
- Family: Euphorbiaceae
- Genus: Euphorbia
- Species: Euphorbia terracina
DescriptionTop of page
False caper is a short-lived perennial herb, resembling leafy spurge (Euphorbia escula), a related problem weed in the USA. False caper is large and shrub-like and can form dense thickets with rapid growth and prolific seeding. This gives it the potential to invade areas of healthy rangeland. The plant is upright and grows up to 1 meter (3 feet) tall, with succulent erect branches emerging from a basal woody stem. The plant consists of several green to reddish, slender, leafy stems which branch at the top to produce 4 or 5 flower stems. Flowers are highly modified, yellow/green cup like structures, quite distinct from the bright green leaves. The plant is supported by a robust vertical taproot, however, false caper varies from leafy spurge in that it does not appear to spread vegetatively; but by seed only.
Plant TypeTop of page Herbaceous
DistributionTop of page
E. terracina is native to Northern Africa, temperate Asia, and some areas of Europe. It has become a serious pest in western Australia. The plant invaded disturbed coastal areas in southern California, USA, in the mid-1980’s and spread rapidly after a series of fires that dispersed the hardy seeds. In 2005-2006, a population explosion was observed, most likely due to a huge number of seeds produced and their unintentional movement via construction equipment. Many methods of control have been utilized in Australia and in California, from hand pulling to the use of numerous herbicides. False caper is of limited distribution in California where it is regulated.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Riordan et al., 2008; USDA-NRCS, 2011|
|Yugoslavia (former)||Present||Native||USDA-ARS, 2011|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Western Australia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Western Australian Herbarium, 2011|
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
|Salt marshes||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
In summer most leaves are lost and most stems die back to the base, with new stems produced after autumn rains. Plants are killed by fire and replaced from the soil seedbank. Explosive fruit burst distributes seed several meters; water and animals also transport seed.
Morphological traits and invasive potential in California, USA, are reviewed by Riordan et al. (2008).
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds||Yes|
Impact SummaryTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Has high reproductive potential
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts livelihoods
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
Uses ListTop of page
- Poisonous to mammals
Prevention and ControlTop of page
E. terracina, due to its medium likelihood of introduction, high consequences of introduction, and medium/high pest risk potential in the U.S., was added to the Federal Noxious Weed List and seed list in 2010. The state regulatory status in California was updated in 2010 to class B. “… if present in California, it is of limited distribution. B-rated pests are eligible to enter the state if the receiving county has agreed to accept them. If found in the state, they are subject to state endorsed holding action and eradication only to provide for containment, as when found in a nursery. At the discretion of the individual county agricultural commissioner they are subject to eradication, containment, suppression, control, or other holding action.”
BibliographyTop of page
Brigham, Christy. “Euphorbia terracina: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.” Powerpoint presentation, 15 April 2004. National Park Services, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Accessed 15 June 2009. http://www.cal-ipc.org/symposia/archive/pdf/2006/EDBrigham.pdf
Lehtonen, Polly. Weed Risk Assessment for Euphorbia terracina L. (False caper). Ver. 6 February 22, 2009. Revised by: Shirley Wager-Pagé. Addendum to a report, Analysis and Assessment of the Invasive risk of Euphorbia terracina, submitted by Sarah Reichard and Lizbeth Seebacher, University of Washington, College of Forest Resources, Center for Urban Horticulture. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/weeds/riskassessments.shtml
ReferencesTop of page
Parsons WT; Cuthbertson EG, 1992. Noxious Weeds of Australia. Melbourne, Australia: Inkata Press.
USDA-ARS, 2011. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx
Principal SourceTop of page
US Federal Noxious Weed List (draft fact sheet 2011)
Distribution MapsTop of page
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