Mary Anna Anderson, UNL ExtensionJuly Weed - Prostrate Spurge

Mary Anna Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension, describes weeds - plants out of place - that we may discover on our acreages. Last month's weed, purslane, had a surprising number of uses. Not so for the July weed!

Weed: Euphorbia maculate, same as Euphorbia supima, Chamaesyce maculata, and Chamaesyce supine. It is in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae.

Common names: spotted spurge, prostrate spurge, spotted sandmat, milk purslane, prostrate spurge, eye bane.

Description: When someone calls the Extension office and describes a weed as looking like a doily in the yard, it usually is a spotted spurge. Spotted spurge has leaves that are opposite, small, oval, about a half inch long. They sometimes are spotted with red and/or are hairy. When the reddish stems are broken they exude a white milky sap. The numerous pink flowers grow from leaf axils. The plant has a thin taproot.

Prostrate or spotted spurge, photo by Mary Anna Anderson, UNL ExtensionWhere: Found in poor, drought-stressed turf, prostrate spurge germinates and grows well during hot, dry weather on thin soils. It often is found on closely mowed sites and on edges of lawns next to curbs, driveways, and sidewalks, but may be scattered throughout the grass as well. It is low growing but can grow over short turf and spread out and form a mat, choking out the grass.

Propagation: It is an annual. Thousands of seeds may be produced by a single plant. Buried seeds can be viable for over 50 years!

Poisoning: The milky sap the spurges contain causes dermatitis, and the fresh plants must be handled with caution.

Historical: It is native to North America.

What: This is one weed that has very few beneficial claims associated with it. Even the few claims of medicinal value warn to be extremely cautious when using this plant.

Pros: Game birds attracted to the seeds seem to be the only animal that uses the plant as a food source. A passing reference says the sap has been used against warts, but with caution as a person can get an overdose - even on the skin. An herbal website says that historically the plant was used to treat cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery.

Cons: It is a weed that can be hard to control in thin turf and disturbed areas. People can react to the milky sap, so some websites recommend using gloves when pulling it.