Euphorbia platyphyllos

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaEuphorbiaceaeEuphorbiaEuphorbia platyphyllos


An annual of cultivated and waste ground, usually growing on calcareous clays but sometimes on lighter chalk or limestone soils. It is found most frequently at the margins of arable fields, and occasionally on roadsides. Its seed is thought to be long-lived in the soil. Lowland.



World Distribution

As an archaeophyte E. platyphyllos has a European Southern-temperate distribution.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Arable and horticultural (includes orchards, excludes domestic gardens)

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.9

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.3

Annual Precipitation (mm): 733

Life form information

Height (cm): 70

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 248

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.24

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Euphorbia platyphyllos L.

Broad-leaved spurge

Status: scarce



This is a plant of cultivated and waste land, usually found on calcareous clay but also on lighter chalky soils. It is generally encountered on the field margins, often growing in small numbers in places where crop density is reduced and which have been missed by herbicide sprays. It rarely occurs on ruderal sites such as roadsides. It is often found with other uncommon weeds such as Euphorbia exigua, Kickxia elatine, K. spuria, Ranunculus arvensis, Scandix pecten-veneris, Valerianella dentata and V. rimosa

An annual, this spurge germinates in spring and autumn. Its seed is thought to possess considerable longevity in the soil seed bank.

Once locally common in southern England, from Somerset to Kent and Norfolk, it has now virtually disappeared from most of East Anglia and is of reduced incidence in most of its former range. This decline is primarily due to the effects of modern herbicides. It is now most frequent on the clays of Somerset and Surrey. Although there are records from 108 British 10 km squares from 1970 onwards, this declining species is classified as scarce as it has been recorded in only 74 British 10 km squares from 1980 onwards.

It appears to be declining in north-west Europe, being better adapted to the warmer, and less-intensively farmed, countries of southern Europe.



A. Smith

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (170d)
de Bolòs O, Vigo J
1990.  Flora dels Països Catalans, II. Crucíferes-Amarantàcies.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.