Euphorbia nutans L.

Nodding Spurge

Euphorbia nutans plant

Family - Euphorbiaceae

Stems - From a thick taproot, herbaceous, to 80 cm, ascending and typically with arching tips, branching, sparsely pubescent, often reddish or tan in color, with milky sap.

Euphorbia nutans stemStem and leaves.

Euphorbia nutans stemStem with milky sap.

Leaves - Opposite, sessile or very short petiolate (petioles to 2mm). Stipules present as small scales 1.0-1.5 mm long, separate, or, on 1 side of the stem, those from the adjacent leaves in each pair basally fused into a single small structure. Blades asymmetric at the base, rounded at the apex, to +3cm long, 1.3cm broad, glaucous abaxially, deep green adaxially, toothed, sparsely to moderately pubescent. Margins often reddish. Most of the primary lateral veins originate from the base of the leaf.

Euphorbia nutans stipuleStipule.

Euphorbia nutans leavesPressed leaves.

Inflorescence - axillary, of solitary cyathia or appearing as small clusters on short axillary branches. Pedicels to 4mm long, glabrous.

Euphorbia nutans inflorescenceInflorescence

Flowers - Involucre 0.5-1.0 mm long, externally glabrous, the rim shallowly 4-lobed, the marginal glands 4, 0.3-0.5 mm long and more or less equal in size, the body oblong to nearly circular, green or occasionally reddish purple, with a relatively inconspicuous petaloid appendage 0.2-1.5 mm long, this white or pinkish-tinged. Staminate flowers 5-28 per cyathium. Ovaries glabrous, the styles 0.6-2.5 mm long, each divided 1/3-1/2 of the way from the tip into 2 slender lobes. Ovary glabrous, green, 2mm broad in flower. Capsule 3-sided, 3-locular, glabrous. One seed per locule.

Euphorbia nutans flowersFlowers and fruits.

Flowering - May - October.

Habitat - Thickets, fallow fields, gravel bars, cultivated fields, pastures, open woods, roadsides, railroads, almost any disturbed site.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This weedy species is found throughout Missouri. The plant is very common along roadsides and in disturbed areas. Many of the plants from this genus can be hard to differentiate. E. nutans can be a fairly big plant with fairly large leaves (for a spurge) and arching stems, which help to identify it in the field.

In the past, this plant was called Euphorbia maculata by many botanists, but the two are now considered dicrete species.

Photographs taken at the Current River Conservation Area, Reynolds County, MO., 7-28-01, and in Ellington, MO., 7-7-03 (DETenaglia); also along the Katy Trail, Warren County, MO, 7-29-2012 (SRTurner).