Plant of the Week: Wild Spurge

Wild spurgeThis inviting flower blooms on the High Line at Little West 12th and West 16th Streets. Photo by Joan Garvin

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

New Yorkers get a lot of – unfair and usually untrue – flak. Despite our charms, people say we are rude, inconsiderate, and never stop to enjoy life. Well, no one can argue that this New Yorker defies all of these preconceptions. Wild spurge, or Euphorbia corollata, is not only native to New York, but also consistently delights High Line visitors with its lovely white flowers, urging them to stop and smell the roses (or spurges).

This plant, also known as flowering spurge, has no branches and mainly consists of a central green stem ranging from one half to three feet tall with vibrant leaves growing up the length and culminating in white flowers on top. The small white flowers, which some say resemble baby's breath, each have a vibrant yellow center. While simple, these flowers, which bloom in the mid to late summer, evoke a sense of naturalism key to the High Line's horticultural design.

EnlargeJoel Sternfeld: A Branch that Fell on the High Line, July 2000 - Joel Sternfeld

With an ability to grow in a variety of soil types and a defense mechanism of poisonous latex-containing leaves, wild spurge grows naturally in many parts of North America. The plant is particularly special to the High Line's planting because of its tendency to grow in between railway tracks. In fact, when one looks at photographs of the abandoned High Line – before it was a park, but after it was a functional railroad – one can see this plant taking over the former train line. When envisioning the park, the High Line Design Team emphasized utilizing native plants in order to preserve the wild and natural aesthetic that is so rare in New York City. The landscapers even went so far as to save and dry seeds from the overgrown rail line to be recycled and later planted in the park.

Wild spurge can be found On the High Line at Little West 12th and West 16th Streets

Download our August Bloom Guide.

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