Spotted Spurge Identification and Control
Spotted spurge is a broadleaf summer annual weed that infests turfgrass. It is known by the scientific names Chamaesyce maculata and Euphorbia maculata, because its genus is ambiguous. Other common names for spotted spurge are spotted sandmat and milk purslane. Keep reading to learn more about spotted spurge and how you can manage it.
Spotted spurge is a native summer annual in North America. It germinates and emerges in the late spring and early summer. A plant can produce seeds of its own shortly after germinating, and those seeds can then remain viable for years. Spotted spurge seeds are small and sticky, making them easily transportable on animals, shoes, and equipment.
Spotted spurge has a taproot and stems that spread low to the ground. Its reddish stems have fine hairs on the outside and a white sap on the inside, as do all spurges. The weed can spread as wide as three feet. It has small, oval, dark green leaves and small pink flowers. Leaves develop a dark purplish spot in the middle, which is where the weed gets its name.
Spotted spurge is easily mistaken for prostrate spurge, and some experts don’t even distinguish between the two. But they are, in fact, two different species. Although similar in appearance, prostrate spurge roots at the nodes where they meet the soil. Spotted spurge, on the other hand, does not root at the nodes. Spotted spurge also tends to have darker green leaves than prostrate spurge.
When it comes to weed control, the best defense is a good offense. Your best bet against weeds like spotted spurge is a healthy stand of turfgrass in the first place. Spotted spurge tends to grow in thin or newly planted grass, so try to prevent that environment during the spring and summer when spotted spurge is growing. If you needed one more reason to seed in the fall rather than spring, this is it. Spotted spurge also tends to grow in compact soils, so routine aeration can help reduce the risk of an infestation.
As with all pre-emergent control, you must apply the herbicide before the weed has germinated. Since spotted spurge germinates later than many weeds, you have more time to act. Active ingredients labeled for pre-emergent control of spotted spurge include dithiopyr, izoxaben, pendimethalin, and prodiamine. We carry a variety of herbicides with these active ingredients: Dimension 2EW (dithiopyr), Gallery SC (izoxaben), and Pendulum AquaCap (pendimethalin).
The earlier, the better when it comes to post-emergent control of spotted spurge. Killing the weed in early summer will give the turf more time to reclaim areas that were previously infested. You have more active ingredient options for post-emergent control than pre-emergent, and we carry a variety of herbicides labeled for the weed. Some include Escalade 2 (2,4-D, fluroxypyr, and dicamba), Horsepower (MCPA, triclopyr, and dicamba), and Surge (2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba, and sulfentrazone).
As always, consult your sales rep on which options are best for your situation. By identifying and controlling spotted spurge early, you’ll give turfgrass the best chance of success.