Euphorbia prostrata Aiton

Milk Spurge

Euphorbia prostrata plant

Family - Euphorbiaceae

Stem - To 40 cm, prostrate, mat-forming, sometimes with ascending tips, branched, usually reddish, densely pubescent toward tips, sometimes nearly glabrous toward base. Latex milky.

Euphorbia_prostrata_stemStems and leaves.

Leaves - Leaves opposite, sessile or very short-petiolate. Stipules present as small scales. Leaf blades 3-10 mm long, oblong to oblong-ovate, asymmetric at the base, broadly rounded to occasionally bluntly pointed at the tip, the margins minutely toothed and usually reddish-tinged, the upper surface glabrous or nearly so and lacking a reddish spot, the undersurface sparsely to moderately pubescent with somewhat tangled, slender hairs and usually pale or light green.

Inflorescences - Axillary, of solitary cyathia or appearing as small clusters on short axillary branches.

Flowers - Involucre 0.4-0.8 mm long, externally hairy, the rim shallowly 4-lobed, the marginal glands 4, 0.1-0.3 mm long and usually more or less equal in size, the body oblong to nearly circular, reddish purple to dark purple, with a relatively inconspicuous petaloid appendage 0.1-0.3 mm long, this white to strongly pinkish- or reddish-tinged. Staminate flowers 2-5 per cyathium. Ovaries hairy, the styles about 0.1 mm long, each divided nearly to the base.

Euphorbia_prostrata_flowersFlowers.

Fruit - Fruits 1.0-1.5 mm long, moderately to densely pubescent toward the angles, less densely hairy to nearly glabrous between the angles. Seeds 0.8-1.2 mm long, oblong-ovate in outline, angular in cross-section, flat to slightly convex at the base, the surface with 4-7 relatively sharp, slender cross-ridges, light to dark brown.

Euphorbia_prostrata_fruitFruit.

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Banks of rivers and sloughs, sidewalk cracks, open disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This is one of several species which were formerly classified into the genus Chamaesyce, and which can be difficult to differentiate. A key feature of this particular member of the group is the pattern of pubescence on the fruits, which are hairy on the angles but less so on the faces. The persistent styles are also very short. These characters can be variable and their determination in the field difficult.

This plant and its closely related siblings are usually considered ruderal species and are found mostly in disturbed areas.

Photographs taken along the Katy Trail near Dutzow, Warren County, MO, 8-3-2012 (SRTurner).



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