Flowering Spurge

Family: 
Euphorbiaceae (spurges)
Description: 

A smooth, leafy perennial with a much-branched top. Flowers: when growing on poor ground, only a few, but in rich soils plants may spread as wide as they are tall with a large inflorescence. The floral cups have 5 white false petals surrounding tiny yellow male flowers and a single female flower (this arrangement, called a cyathium, is typical of flowers in the spurge family). Blooms May–October. Leaves alternate on lower stems, sessile, narrowing toward base, ovate, with smooth edges. Leaves at the branching points are in whorls. Leaves in inflorescence are opposite. Leaves and stems are usually hairless but some plants have hairs. The sap is milky and can be skin-irritating.

Size: 
Height: often to 3 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in fields, glades, prairies, open woods, rocky places, roadsides, and railroads.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Human connections: 
As with many other plants containing toxic chemicals, Native Americans used flowering spurge medicinally, for treating constipation, arthritis, and other ailments. The pretty sprays of white flowers look much like the florist's "baby's breath." Toxins in the leaves can kill cattle.
Ecosystem connections: 
Wild turkey eat several parts of this plant; prairie-chicken, quail, and mourning doves eat the seeds. Deer browse the leaves in spring and summer. Several types of wasps and other insects visit the flowers, and ants might help distribute the seeds.