Spurge of the Sidewalk

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Meet the prostrate spurge aka Euphorbia supina aka Euphorbia maculata aka Chamaesyce maculata. Whew, that is a lot of names for such a small plant. Taxonomic struggles aside, many of you have probably seen this small forb growing all over. From fields to parking lots, and even city sidewalks, this small member of the spurge family is an early colonizer of waste places where not much else can grow. I have seen this plant my whole life but never took any notice of it's flowers. I can't say I blame myself considering their diminutive size. Like many members of the spurge family, the latex-like sap can cause a skin rash in some people, so be aware of this when weeding your garden. It is native to the lower 48 but has been introduced far and wide thanks to human activity and it's resilience in poor habitats. In at least one study, leachates from prostrate spurge were shown to inhibit nodule formation on the roots of legumes. In essence, this species may be inhibiting other early succession plant species in order to maintain open habitat for itself for as long as possible. I must say, after finally taking a closer look at this species, I have developed a new found respect for it. 

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Further Reading:

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=chma15

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2441417?uid=4&sid=21102522714117