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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Spotted spurge  (Euphorbia (=Chamaesyce) maculata)

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Life stages of Spotted spurge seedling mature plant flowers red form seeds and fruit

Spotted spurge is a low-growing summer annual broadleaf plant that often forms a dense mat. It is the most commonly seen weedy spurge in California and is found throughout the state, except in the deserts and Great Basin, to about 700 feet (200 m). Spotted spurge inhabits agricultural lands and other disturbed areas. Spurges have a milky, sticky sap that can cause contact dermatitis in humans and animals. Some spurge species, if eaten, can cause mild to severe digestive tract irrigation, and even death on rare occasions. It is a host for fungal diseases and attracts pests that damage crops.


Landscaped areas, walkways, roadsides, gardens, turf, orchards, vineyards, agronomic and vegetable crops, and plant nurseries.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are oval to oblong with a rounded to slightly truncate tip, about 1/25 to 1/10 of an inch (1–3 mm) long, hairless, and often have a maroon tinge underneath. The first true leaves are egg shaped to roundish, slightly hairy, maroon tinged or have a maroon central spot, and have a rounded tip that may be minutely toothed.

Mature plant

Spotted spurge generally has prostrate stems that can grow up to about 20 inches (50 cm) in length, but stems can grow upward when competing for light with other plants. Branches alternate along the stem. New leaves are typically hairy, especially lower leaf surfaces. Leaves are oblong to egg shaped, about 1/6 to 2/3 of an inch (4–17 mm) long, often marked with a characteristic dark, reddish spot found midway down the center of the leaf vein, and sit atop short stalks. Creeping spurge, C. serpens, leaves are not marked with a characteristic spot. When broken, a milky, sticky sap oozes from the stem.


Flowering takes place from May through October. Tiny, inconspicuous flowers are grouped in small flowerlike cups and are surrounded by white to pink petal-like appendages. Flower clusters are found at the stem tips and along the length of the stem, where one to two small flower clusters are produced where the stem and leaf stalk meet (leaf axil).


The fruit consists of a tiny, roughly 1/17 of an inch (1.5 mm) long, evenly hairy, egg-shaped capsule with three lobes. The creeping spurge fruit capsule is similar in size but it is hairless and roundish.


Seeds are tiny, roughly 1/25 of an inch (1 mm) in length, oblong, four sided, truncate at one end, and light brown.


Reproduces by seed.

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