WSU Extension

Hortsense

Weeds : Spurges (Prostrate spurges) : Chamaesyce spp. (Euphorbia spp.)
(revision date: 4/7/2021)

Family: Euphorbiaceae
Cycle: Annual
Plant Type: Broadleaf

Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for successful weed management.

Biology
There are four prostrate weedy spurges that are common in the western United States. All four species are annual plants with opposite leaves and milky juice. Spotted spurge (Chamaesyce maculata) has hairy stems and hairy, dark green leaves with a distinct purple spot on each leaf. Small, pinkish flowers are produced in the leaf axils. The branches of spotted spurge may be upright, with some branching, but many other species are prostrate. Ground spurge (C. prostrata) is similar to spotted spurge, but lacks the purple spots. Both thyme-leaved spurge (C. serpyllifolia) and ridge-seeded spurge (C. glyptosperma) have smooth stems and leaves. Thyme-leaved spurge has slightly toothed leaf margins, especially at the tips. Ridge-seeded spurge has smooth-margined leaves and seeds that appear corrugated. SPECIAL INFORMANTION: The milky sap of spurges can irritate or blister the skin and can also irritate the eyes. Avoid eye or skin contact with sap. Most Chamaesyce and Euphorbia species are considered toxic.
Habitat
Spurges are commonly found on dry, bare sites. They prefer sandy or gravelly soils.

Management Options

Non-Chemical Management
  • Reduce weed establishment by maintaining a healthy planting or turf area to provide competition.
  • Cultivation (rototilling or hoeing) will effectively eliminate plants.
  • Reduce weed infestation by handpulling weeds.
  • Careful digging is useful to manage weed populations. However, digging can carry undesirable weed seed to the surface and foster further germination.
Select non-chemical management options as your first choice!

Chemical Management

Glyphosate products should be applied as spot treatments only! NOTE: Some ingredients listed here are only available in combination. Read the label carefully on combination products to make sure the product is suitable for your specific situation.

Landscape areas
  • glyphosate
  • dichlobenil
  • oryzalin
  • trifluralin
  • products containing triclopyr
Turf areas
  • triclopyr
Bare ground areas
  • glyphosate
  • triclopyr
Images
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Caption: Prostrate spurge with flowers
Photo by: D.G. Swan
Caption: Prostrate spurge rosette
Photo by: D.G. Swan
Caption: Milky fluid exuding from spurge stem
Photo by: Washington Noxious Weed Control Board
Caption: Prostrate spurge cut stem
Photo by: D.G. Swan
Caption: Leafy spurge flowers
Photo by: Washington Noxious Weed Control Board
Caption: Petty spurge
Photo by: T.W. Miller
Caption: Spotted spurge
Photo by: T. W. Miller