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Prostrate Spurge

Euphorbia prostrata Aiton

[also called Chamaesyce prostrata (Aiton) Small]

Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family)


▲  small plant

▲ ▼ mature plant rosettes


▲▼ flowers and fruit close-ups

▲ flowers and fruit

▲ ▼ plants with upright, arching growth that sometime occurs later in season


▲ mature plant showing occasional tendency to send up "upright" stems during late summer to early fall

Prostrate Spurge

·         Summer annual plant with a ground-hugging (prostrate), spreading growth habit—grows 2-8” tall and 6-24” wide

·         Leaves are small, oval-shaped, with a few teeth, few hairs on top of leaf, more hairs underneath and evenly-spaced incurved hairs on stems; will not have purple spots on the leaves

·         Stems are greenish to greenish-pink or pinkish and do not root at the nodes

·         Fruit is a 3 sided capsule, with many hairs, even on “corners” and very short styles divided to near their base at tip of capsule

·         Several weeds in Missouri are “lumped” together as prostrate spurges by their flat, spreading growth habit, but they actually are different species of plants:

o    Spotted Spurge:

§  It usually grows smaller than prostrate spurge (at least not as broad-spreading as prostrate spurge

§  Has purplish spots on its leaves which also may be toothed on edges; tends to have scattered long hairs on upper leaf surface, and more dense hairs underneath; stems similar to prostrate spurge

§  Stems may root at the nodes

§  capsules are evenly covered with hair without pronounced angle hair; styles are divided about ¼ to 1/3 their length, with pink bulb-like tips

o   Spreading Sandmat: 

§  Has larger leaves with few hairs on both sides; may or may not have purple spot; stems and leaves usually green or tan-green, not pink or reddish

§  Stems may root at the nodes

§  Capsule lightly covered with incurved hairs; style is split about half way; cyathia (flower) is split on one side

o   Creeping Sandmat: 

§  Has smaller oval to almost round leaves with no teeth or purple spots; stems green to pinkish red and do not root at the nodes; no hairs on stems or leaves

§  Capsule is smooth and styles are split ¼ to ½ their length

o   Slimseed Sandmat, Slimseed Spurge: 

§  Has thicker leaves with long, soft hairs on both sides;  leaf margins often toothed in upper part and leaf tip may be rounded or pointed; leaf bases are usually uneven; stems and leaves usually green, pinkish-green or sometimes reddish

§  Capsule covered with long hairs, particularly toward the base of the capsule; style is not split; cyathia (flower) has short, white petal-like appendanges


·         All of the above have milky sap when stems or leaves are broken, making it easy to distinguish from Prostrate Knotweed  which also has more wiry and tougher stems than the prostrate spurges

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