(Photos: C.Schultz; close-up with flower; in situ, Cape Jervis)
This is a stiff, pale green shrub, growing up to about 60cm tall around Cape Jervis. Originally from areas around the Mediterranean, you’ll find it along the sea shore or on sand dunes here. A plant can produce up to 5000 salt-tolerant seeds, which spread on ocean currents from beach to beach. The plants then compete with (and displace) native plant species, and change the actual structure of the beach. Consequently sea spurge is a transformer weed. The transformations it causes also have repercussions for birds such as the Hooded Plover, which like open beaches for nesting.
Leaves vary in length from 5 to 20mm. The older leaves around the lower part of the stem hang down untidily as they brown off. Further up the stem, the leaves change shape, getting broader, but they are still tightly packed. The stems themselves are fleshy, and quite thick (often over 2 cm). These stems die off annually to reshoot from a woody crown. Broken stems can release a toxic sap; be careful you don’t get this on your skin or in your eyes. The yellowy-green flowers are tiny, as you can see from the photo above (compare to the fingertip in the background).