April 2015
The Herb Lady

Gopher Purge

The following column was written in 1987 for another publication. After reading Carolyn Drinkard’s article, "Attack of the Voles,"in the July issue of AFC Cooperative Farming News, I decided it should be printed again. I also decided to present it exactly as I did originally.

Gopher purge (Euphorbia lathyris) – also known as caper purge or mole plant.

Jeanine called me all excited and said, "Nadine, please tell me more about gopher purge. Usually my garden is covered with mole runs. This year I had one of these wonderful plants. There was practically no sign of moles in the area near it. It works! It works!"

Here is your information, Jeanine.

  Gopher purge (Euphorbia lathyris)

Gopher purge is a biennial plant that is easily propagated by seed. It can reach a height of three feet. Spike-like leaves grow closely on the stalk-like stems. Small branches sometimes form. DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT. It is poisonous to humans as well to our underground pests.

I, too, have had less mole damage this year. Possibly due to the fact that there were several gopher purge plants in my garden. Only one survived the entire summer. None have bloomed. Maybe my one survivor will do so in its second year.

A gopher purge plant is in the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Tom Daughtery tells me tells me it has performed its task there. It has also created much discussion among visitors to the gardens.

There are many mole remedies to be found. I doubt if any work as well as we would like. Miss Kitty, an adorable foundling kitten, took up residence in my greenhouse and garden. She showed signs of being a good mole exterminator. The poor dear tempted fate one time too many, though. She’s no longer of this world.

Another remedy that sounds great comes from Cousin Albert Pugh. Potash – Red Devil Lye. He said to punch a hole into the mole run. Pour a little lye in the hole. Then replace the soil in the hole. Moles will get potash on their feet, lick it off and commit a form of suicide.

(2014 note: I lost contact with Tom Daughtery long ago. The late Albert Pugh was a long time employee of Bonnie Plants. I do not believe potash is available on today’s market. Gopher purge plants and/or seed can possibly be obtained from Companion Plants, 740-592-4643 or www.companionplants.com.)

(Editor’s note: You can also check with your local Quality Co-op for Motomco’s Mole Killer. They are designed and manufactured to mimic mole’s natural food source – worms.)

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 866-570-7302, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..