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With its leaf color and shape and wide clusters of white flowers, the overall appearance of Prairie Baby's Breath is distinctive in the garden.
Photo: T. Beckjord

With its leaf color and shape and wide clusters of white flowers, the overall appearance of Prairie Baby's Breath is distinctive in the garden. Photo: T. Beckjord

Euphorbia corollata

Flowering Spurge, Prairie Baby's Breath

Prairie Baby’s Breath (Euphorbia corollata), or Flowering Spurge as it is also called, is a lovely wildflower to add to the garden! Blooming in mid-summer for 1-2 months, each stem produces an airy panicle of small white flowers that, as the plant matures can be up to 12 inches across. This large flower cluster has quite a presence in the garden when in bloom! Finely textured in appearance, each individual flower is only about ¼” across.

At maturity, the overall height of the plant will usually range from 2-3 feet in typical garden conditions. Each individual stem is unbranched and covered in alternate leaves until the point where it branches at the top to form the flower panicle. The leaves of Prairie Baby’s Breath are a distinctive soft blue-green, smooth-edged oval which, with their color, add an eye-catching texture. In the fall, the plant takes on a reddish to golden color.

Prairie Baby’s Breath grows in full sun to light shade and is not particular about soil type. In the wild it grows in a wide variety of soil and soil moisture conditions: black soil, sand, clay, gravel, and – in fact – prefers poorer soils because of less competition from other species. It also grows quite successfully in old fields and other disturbed areas. With its high drought tolerance, this is not a plant for wetter locations. In fact, it should prove to be a good selection for the tough conditions found in parking lot islands and green roofs.

The pollen and nectar produced by the plant support a wide variety of bees, wasps and flies as well as small butterflies such as the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. Wild Turkey, Greater Prairie Chicken, Bobwhite Quail, Mourning Dove, and Horned Lark are reported to eat the seeds. The leaves of Prairie Baby’s Breath contain a toxic white latex. As a result the plant is rarely bothered by rabbits or deer.

The leaf color and preferred soil conditions make this an attractive companion plant to Little Bluestem (Schiachyrium scoparium).