Being a hearty plant that doesn't need much water, spurge seemed like a great fit for Salt Lake Valley gardens.
It succeeded too well. Gardens couldn't contain the many types of spurge. Now the flowering plants, which secrete a milky substance, are spreading through the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, strangling the life out of native vegetation.
Salt Lake County is rallying residents to fight back Saturday in the 7th annual "Purge Your Spurge" campaign.
A "weed pull" is set for 7:30 a.m. at the Grandeur Park trailhead, 2900 S. Wasatch Blvd. Its aim is to remove as much spurge as possible from the hills around the Bonneville Shoreline Trail as it moves south from Parleys Canyon through newly acquired county open-space lands.
And from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers at the REI store at 3285 E. 3300 South will give vouchers good for five free native and waterwise plants to people who turn in spurge from either weed pull or from their own gardens.
There's a special bonus, too, said Julie Peck-Dabling, the county's open-space director. The first 100 people to trade in spurge scalps ("at least 4 inches of the root cwlump") are eligible to receive vouchers from Alta Ski Area good for two lift tickets for the price of one.
"It's just a nasty weed," she said of the 2,000 species within the genus Euphorbia. "It looks beautiful, but it's really invasive and takes out everything, killing all the native grasses. And it's not really eaten by wildlife. It causes an imbalance in our ecosystem, which has everything from deer and elk to squirrels and birds. None of them are eating it and it keeps marching up the mountain."
Peck-Dabling asked weed-pull participants to bring their own shovels or spades and to wear long-sleeve shirts, eye protection and gloves. While spurge does not have stickers, the milky sap that seeps from breaks in the stem can cause severe skin irritation.
"With its flowers, it looks pretty unfortunately," she added. "But looks are deceiving in the case of this plant."
Purge Your Spurge
Volunteers are being sought for weed pulls Saturday at:
7:30 a.m. at the Grandeur Park trailhead, 2900 S. Wasatch Blvd.
9:30 a.m. at Rattlesnake Gulch in Millcreek Canyon