While out and about this summer keep your eyes peeled for sea spurge

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The beach is a place thousands of Kiwis will be flocking to this season to soak up the sunshine, surf, and swim.  

But there's something New Zealanders should keep a look out for whilst enjoying their holiday with whanau and friends.  

It's called sea spurge, an invasive weed which has been cropping up in parts of Aotearoa.  

Sea spurge invades the shores just above the high tide mark, disrupts sand dunes, and stops native plants from being able to grow. Because it spreads quickly, it can ravage a whole area in a short space of time.  

Department of Conservation (DOC), and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) want people to report any sightings.  

Its sap is toxic to humans and animals and can cause skin irritations, or temporary blindness if you get it in your eyes, so don't try to remove it if you do spot it.

"Having a day at the beach is quintessential to a New Zealand summer, if sea spurge became well established in New Zealand, it could jeopardise that. If you spot sea spurge let us know by calling the MPI exotic pest line 0800 80 99 66 and make sure to take a photo if you can," says MPI's director of readiness and responses, John Walsh.

Sea spurge looks like a small shrub, it can grow up to about half a metre in height, it has multiple stems that are often reddish at the base, and it has spiky, tightly packed bluey-green leaves and greenish flowers on the end of the stems. 

It was first found in 2012 on our shores. It's believed the seeds have travelled in ocean currents from Australia where this species is invasive and widely established along the coastline.  

"Whilst you're out and about this summer, aside from the age-old tropes of slip, slop, slap and wrap, and being a tidy kiwi – we're asking everyone to look out for and report if they see what they think might be sea spurge. We can all work together to keep our beaches beautiful and preserve them for generations to come," says Walsh.

Sea spurge has been found near the following places around the country: Karekare Beach, Aotea Harbour, Mokau, Himatangi, and Karamea.  

What to do this summer if you think you've found sea spurge

  • Don't disturb the sea spurge plants as it could spread the seeds.  
  • Don't cut sea spurge or try to remove it, its sap is toxic.  
  • Take a photo of the location and a closeup of the plants.  
  • Try and get your location as accurate as possible and note it down. GPS if possible.  
  • Call 0800 80 99 66. 

Image files

Sea spurge [JPG, 5.5 MB]

Young sea spurge [JPG, 3.8 MB]

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