Native to the United States, where it is found from West Virginia and Virginia south to Louisiana and Florida.
This perennial is found most often in sandy soils in open fields, wooded areas, or disturbed sites. Stiff hairs along the stems and on the leaves contain venom which can inflict a painful sting on the skin from slight contact. Stiff spines also cover the entire plant, making it particularly difficult to handle. Reproduction is from seeds.
An unusual plant in the spurge family, this upright , shrubby plant can reach over 3 feet in height, with multiple branches and very broad leaves. Stems are thick and fibrous. The leaves are alternate and up to 9 inches in length. Leaves are deeply lobed into 3 to 5 segments, each of these with jagged margins and veins prominently light colored. The large white flowers bloom from spring into the fall, or year-round in the warm parts of Florida. There actually are no petals, but the male flowers have the large white calyx, while the female flowers occur lower on the stem and have no showy petals or calyx.
Characteristicts Important to Control:
With great care the plants may be physically removed, or a non-selective systemic herbicide can be applied to kill foliage and roots.