Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Scourge That is Spurge

Can you spot the Spurge in this picture?

As fellow gardeners and I were commiserating recently about the weed situations in our gardens, several of them lamented the difficulties they encountered with ridding their garden of Spotted Spurge (Euphorbia maculata), a creeping and mat-forming variety. While that Spurge isn't unknown to the Head Gardener and me, we are far more challenged by another member of the Euphorbiaceae family, what I've been calling Tall Spurge for lack of a proper ID. Since some of my fellows were unfamiliar with this noxious and invasive weed, the Head Gardener felt it was our duty to educate them about the scourge that is spurge.


Based on the research I've done online, I believe this unwelcome plant to be Nodding Spurge (Chamaesyce nutans, syn. E. nutans). Nodding Spurge begins life as a tiny pair of leaves about the size of this comma , and that may be the only time in its growth cycle that you can scrape it out or hoe it up without fear of reprisal. Once it begins to develop those tiny pink-tinged white blooms, you'll want to pull or dig these weeds out.

Nodding Spurge can grow up to 3 feet tall; the long thin stems enable it to grow up through other plants and hide therein ... by the time you spot it, who knows how many seeds have already fallen? Take care when pulling or digging it up to avoid releasing more of the tiny seeds.

According to an article on a Virginia Tech website, Nodding Spurge is very similar to Hyssop Spurge (Chamaesyce hyssopifolia). Looking at the pictures on that page, I believe that I may also have Hyssop Spurge, mainly in and near the crushed granite paths. I had noted a difference in stem and leaf color in seedlings in those areas, which I attributed to soil conditions. I'm not willing to nurse a seedling along in the interest of science, however!

6 comments:

Commonweeder said...

This looks a lot like, and acts like, a weed that is becoming a scourge up here - bedstraw, a galium. It is very pretty actually, but don't say that to the farmers whose hayfields are being ruined by its incursion.

Elizabeth Barrow said...

I have this awful thing too. I emailed a picture of it to the hotline at the Fort Bend Master Gardeners, but they didn't respond. "Tall Spurge" sounds good to me!
Thanks for sending your positive grafting energy my way -- I'll need it!

Annie in Austin said...

I've seen the Spotted Spurge/Euphorbia maculata popping up in the newish parking strip garden - didn't know the name until you said it but knew it was nasty.

Guess I'd better keep an eye out for the taller one, too. Thanks for the heads-up, Cindy!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Cindy, MCOK said...

Pat, I've got what may be a variety of Galium coming up in some beds too. It's very delicate but no, thank you!

Elizabeth, it's a horrible summer nuisance, isn't it? I yanked some while I was out back today but more will take their place all too quickly.

Annie, I really hate these weeds with a passion!

LindaCTG said...

Thanks for this ID! I've got my scourge of this spurge too.

Cindy, MCOK said...

Linda, the world would be a much better place without this scourge!