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Euphorbia Sap ! !

I'm wondering how others deal with euphorbia/ spurge. 
Despite being gloved up and wearing eye protection, I still ended up inadvertently getting the sap in my eyes and have spent the last 3 days practically blind and bedridden. The sap is so high in alkaline that it burns the eyes, in my case the membrane of both eyeballs was badly burnt. Fortunately it appreats to be superficial and the membrane regrows, so I'm now regaining my sight and in less pain - BTW the initial pain is by far the worst pain I could ever have imagined, I was in and out of panic attacks and being sick, uttterly unbearable.

So the purpose of this post is twofold

- one, to warn others if you are not aware that this plant has a potential to cost you your eyesight.

- two, do others have a proven regime when working with  euphorbia?

My thoughts are that I will now use disposable coveralls and gloves if I need to do any work on it and treat it like a  rattlesnake.

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  • PRO

    Sorry to hear this Nigel , Hope you make a swift recovery soon , sounds horrendous . 

    How did you get it in your eyes ? 

    I would say try and avoid that technique or accidental mishap again . 

    I have noticed sometimes the sap seems to rise quick , i touch it at arms length wearing gloves and safety glasses , never had an issue , the roots can be a pain to dig out . 

    I always recommend to customers with children to have it removed from their garden . 

    watch out for that hog weed too , harmless at first when you brush past it but once you get the sun on your skin it blisters . 

    • Also the herb "Rue" can be dangerous with sap although less often seen these days, and I experienced irritation on the back of my arms after pruning a large Fig tree, that sap is an irritant as well but not as bad as euphorbia. Maybe swimming or ski goggles are the way forward as the juice is less likely to bypass those than the spectacles type. But not fun to wear especially in warm weather

      • I too discovered that fig sap is irritant this summer. I was asked to cut it back by a client, as I had done several times before, and my arms started to burn very quickly. Luckily it washed off easily and left no long term damage

  • hope you recover quick Nigel

    i have cut loads of it back over the years but with gloves on with no affect cut down at the bottom of the stems with secateurs and wash them and your hands when finished maby throw the gloves as well 

  • PRO

    Oh my goodness! That sounds horrendous! Hope you soon recover.

  • PRO

    Hi Nigel,

    That's an awful thing to happen ,and I wish you a speedy recovery!!I use everytype of Euohorbia going in my designs, but have never had any kind of reaction on my skin. My first boss taught me to get as low as possible to the plant, cut and push away working backwards to yourself . I can imagine how you got that sap on your glove or hand and you wiped your eye, it's very easy to happen in the heat of battle . Avoid cutting that plant in full sun too as that combines with the sap to irritate the skin.


    Get well soon mate!!!..



  • Sorry to hear from that Nigel, hope you get better soon.

    Maybe you should get one of those plastic visors.

    I used to prune a fremontodendron, wearing a spray suit with a hood, a plastic visors and gauntlets. I still would itch afterwards.

    If I do anything mucky I wear overalls, especially rough ground strimming.

  • That's a sobering read.

    I must admit, I have a pair of wrap around sunglasses or safety specs on all day long as I have a 'thing' about damaging my eyes.

    Get well soon.



    • PRO

      Besides the protective gear, there's 3 things to bear in mind with Euphorbia pruning -

      Think in advance about the flow of sap. Make the cuts so the sap flow will be the least hazardous.

      Occasionally, the sap can be under pressure. I once pruned the diminutive E. myrsinites and the sap actually squirted out.

      Despite the pressure to work quickly, WORK SLOWLY AND METHODICALLY !!!!!!

      Get well soon Nigel.

  • Thanks for the wellness wishes. Just over a week on and pretty much back to normal now 🙏🏻.

    I think the thing seems to be to treat the plant as a job on its own. I went from clearing a bed of it straight onto mowing the customers lawn, with it being a hot day I was mopping my brow.

    As I said before, I knew the danger but it slipped my mind - it won't again !


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