South Dakota Native Plant Research
Euphorbiaceae : Euphorbia marginata

Euphorbiaceae : Euphorbia marginata


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Family Name


Common Name

Snow on the mountain

Native American Name

Lakota: itópta sápa tȟapȟéžuta, asáŋpi pȟežúta


Euphorbia marginata in an annual herb with white milky sap, erect stems, and growing 20–70 cm tall. The stems are unbranched below inflorescence. The simple, sessile leaves are alternate, ovate to elliptical, 3–8 cm long, with entire margins and a pointed tip. They are a medium green in spring. The upper leaves and bracts gradually develop showy white to pinkish edging. There is a whorl of leaves at the base of the terminal umbel-like inflorescence. The unisex flowers are contained in a cup-like involucre (cyathium), 3–4 mm long with 4-5 white lobes, borne singly at the end of the inflorescence branches. Each cyathia has 1 pistilate flower and 35-60 staminate flowers. The fruit is a hairy capsule 4-6 mm long. Snow on the mountain blooms from June to October on prairies, pastures, roadsides and waste places, usually on calcareous soils, throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Snow-on-the-mountain has very attractive foliage and small flowers with white petals and yellow centers, subtended by showy leafy bracts. It is very hardy and produces many seeds. The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract small bees and flies, and the seeds are eaten by the Mourning Doves and other birds.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Seeds can be collected in mid to late summer when the fruits begin to open.

Germination: Seeds need a cold treatment before germinating. Planting in the fall is the easiest way to propagate the plants.

Soils: Will grow in well drained, sandy to clay soils.

Light: Full sun to light shade in the afternoon.

Water: Drought tolerant, but does best under mesic conditions.

Euphorbiaceae : Euphorbia marginata