What Is Spotted Spurge?

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Spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata) is a common annual weed found in lawns, gardens, and other disturbed areas. It is a native of North America but has been introduced to many other parts of the world. Spotted spurge is a relatively small plant growing only about 12 inches tall. It has a prostrate habit, with stems that spread along the ground. The leaves are small and oval-shaped, with a reddish spot in the center. Spotted spurge spring and summer flowers produce small, greenish flowers.Spotted spurge is a relatively easy weed to identify but can be difficult to control. It is a prolific seed producer, and its seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years. Spotted spurge is also tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, including heat, drought, and poor soil. This pesky weed can be a nuisance in lawns and gardens. It can compete with other plants for water and nutrients, making it difficult to mow. Spotted spurge can also be a health hazard, as its sap can irritate the skin and eyes.

How To Identify Spotted Spurge

Spotted spurge can be easily confused with other spurge species, but there are a few key differences. Spotted spurge is the only spurge species with a reddish spot on the leaves. Spotted spurge also has a prostrate habit, while other spurge species tend to grow more upright. Below are the characteristics of spotted spurge to help you correctly identify it.

  • Growth habit: Spotted spurge has a prostrate habit, with stems that spread along the ground.
  • Leaves: The leaves are small and oval-shaped, with a reddish spot in the center.
  • Flowers: Spotted spurge flowers in the spring and summer, producing small, greenish flowers.
  • Stems: The stems are hairy and reddish.
  • Sap: Spotted spurge produces a milky sap that irritates skin and eyes.

If you are still unsure whether or not a plant is spotted spurge, you can take a picture of it and send it to a professional for identification.

Life Cycle Of Spotted Spurge

Spotted spurge has a summer annual life cycle. This means that it germinates in the spring or early summer, grows and flowers throughout the summer, and produces seeds in the fall. The seeds then overwinter in the soil and germinate the following spring.The life cycle of spotted spurge can be summarized as follows:

  • Seed germination: Spotted spurge seeds germinate in the spring or early summer when temperatures reach at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds can germinate in various soil conditions, but they prefer moist, well-drained soil.
  • Seedling growth: Spotted spurge seedlings grow quickly and can reach heights of up to 6 inches within a few weeks. The seedlings have a pair of cotyledon leaves, followed by true leaves that are oval-shaped and have a reddish spot in the center.
  • Vegetative growth: Spotted spurge plants continue to grow and spread throughout the summer. The stems are prostrate and can reach lengths of up to 3 feet. The leaves are arranged oppositely on the stems.
  • Flowering and fruiting: Spotted spurge plants begin to flower in the summer and continue to flower until the fall. The flowers are small and greenish. The flowers produce seeds that are small and brown.
  • Seed dispersal: Spotted spurge seeds are dispersed by a variety of means, including wind, water, and animals. The seeds can also be dispersed when soil is disturbed during cultivation or other activities.
  • Seed dormancy: Spotted spurge seeds go dormant in the fall and overwinter in the soil. The seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 7 years.

Spotted spurge is a prolific seed producer, and a single plant can produce up to several thousand seeds. This makes it difficult to control spotted spurge, as even a small infestation can quickly spread.

Controlling & Managing Spotted Spurge

There are a number of ways to control and manage spotted spurge. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Hand-weeding: Hand-weeding is effective for controlling small infestations of spotted spurge. Remove the entire plant, including the roots, to prevent it from regrowing. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the irritating sap.
  • Mowing: Mowing spotted spurge regularly can help to prevent it from flowering and producing seeds. However, it is important to note that mowing will not kill spotted spurge completely, as the roots will still be alive underground.
  • Herbicides: Herbicides can kill spotted spurge, but they should be used as a last resort and only after other control methods have failed. Two main types of herbicides can be used to control spotted spurge: contact herbicides and systemic herbicides. Contact herbicides kill the plant tissue they come into contact with, while the plant absorbs systemic herbicides and then travels throughout the plant to kill the roots.

In addition to these methods, several cultural practices can help reduce the number of spotted spurge plants in your lawn or garden. These practices include:

  • Fertilizing your lawn: A healthy lawn is less susceptible to spotted spurge. Fertilizing your lawn regularly will help to keep it thick and healthy.
  • Watering your lawn regularly: Spotted spurge is more likely to grow in dry conditions. Watering your lawn regularly will help prevent spotted spurge from germinating and help keep your lawn healthy.
  • Mulching: Mulching around your plants can help prevent spotted spurge seeds from germinating and can also make it more difficult for spotted spurge seedlings to emerge.

If you have a large infestation of spotted spurge, consider using a combination of control methods. For example, you could mow spotted spurge regularly to prevent it from flowering and producing seeds and then hand-weed any remaining plants. Alternatively, you could apply a systemic herbicide to spotted spurge in the fall, then mulch the spring area to prevent spotted spurge seeds from germinating.Here are some additional tips for controlling and managing spotted spurge:

  • Identify spotted spurge early: The earlier you identify and treat spotted spurge, the easier it will be to control.
  • Prevent spotted spurge from spreading: Be sure to clean any tools or equipment used in areas where spotted spurge is present. This will help to prevent the spread of spotted seeds.
  • Be patient and persistent: It may take several years to control spotted spurge completely. Be patient and persistent with your control methods; you will eventually see results.

If you are having difficulty controlling spotted spurge on your own, you may want to contact a professional lawn care company like Brothers Lawn Service & Landscaping for assistance.