This plant is a summer annual forming a mat of branching leafy stems up
to 2' across. The stems are light green, pale red, or nearly white;
they are terete, hairy, and slightly succulent. The stems are
slightly swollen where the stipules of the leaves occur. Pairs of
opposite leaves occur at intervals along the stems. Individual leaf
blades are 3-11 mm. long and 2-6 mm. across; they are broadly oblong or
ovate-oblong in shape and finely toothed along the upper margins.
Leaf venation is palmate, although only the central veins are
conspicuous. The upper blade surface is dull medium green and hairless
to slightly hairy, while the lower surface is pale green to white and
hairy. The tips of leaf blades are well-rounded,
while their bases are rounded to slightly cordate and often asymmetric.
Sometimes the margins of the leaf blades are tinted red. The short
petioles are light green to nearly white and usually hairy.
clusters of 1-4 inflorescences develop from the axils of each pair of
leaves. Each inflorescence is about 2 mm. across, consisting of a
cup-like cyathium on a short stalk that contains a single pistillate
flower on a short stalk and 4 staminate flowers. Each cyathium is light
green and glabrous to slightly hairy; there are 4 red nectar glands
with whitish petaloid appendages along the upper rim of each cyathium.
The pistillate flower consists of a 3-lobed ovary with a divided style
at its apex; the ovary is light green (while immature), ovoid-globoid
in shape, and its lobes have spreading hairs. The stalk of the
pistillate flower curves sideways or downward initially, but it later
becomes erect at maturity. A staminate flower within the inflorescence
consists of a single stamen. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer
into fall for about 2 months. At maturity, the ovaries develop
into 3-celled seed capsules; each cell of a capsule contains a single
seed. The seeds are distributed, in part, by mechanical ejection.
Individual seeds are about 1.0 mm. in length, oblongoid-rectangular in
shape, and transversely ridged. The root system consists of a slender
taproot that branches. The foliage of this plant contains a milky latex.
The preference is full to partial sun, dry-mesic to dry conditions, and
soil containing sand, gravel, or clay. However, Green Creeping Spurge
also adapts to soil containing fertile loam if disturbance removes
taller ground vegetation. Because of its C4-metabolism and slightly
succulent nature, this plant can withstand hot dry conditions.
Green Creeping Spurge is a
rare plant in Illinois,
where it has been accidentally introduced. It has been observed in NE
Illinois and more recently in Champaign County (see Distribution
These records may underestimate its distribution within the state,
however. Green Creeping Spurge is native to tropical America. Habitats
include lawns, gardens, areas along railroads and roadsides, areas near
parking lots, cracks of urban sidewalks, and barren waste places. Open
sunny areas with a history of disturbance are preferred.
The nectaries of the flowers attract Syrphid
Halictid bees, and various ants (Lasius
Some bees may also collect pollen. Two aphids suck juices from
(Low Spurges): Macrosiphum
and Macrosiphum gei
Other insect feeders
include the plant bug, Semium
, and the flea beetle, Glyptina
. The latter insect feeds on the roots. Because
of the toxic
white latex and its low stature, mammalian herbivores have little use
for Green Creeping Spurge and other Chamaesyce spp.
following birds eat the seeds of these plants: Greater Prairie Chicken,
Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, Horned Lark, and Chipping Sparrow (Martin et
al., 1951/1961). Because of an oily food appendage on each seed
(referred to as a 'caruncle'), ants probably play a role
in distributing the seeds to new areas.
Along a parking lot and a railroad
Green Creeping Spurge is a relatively recent invader of Illinois.
Because of its low habit and similarity to other Chamaesyce spp.
Spurges), this invasion has gone largely unnoticed. At a cursory
glance, Green Creeping Spurge resembles a common native species,
Prostrate Spurge (Chamaesyce
, formerly Chamaesyce
the two species can be found together in the same
habitats, particularly in some urban areas. The latter species
differs from Green Creeping Spurge as follows: 1) its leaves are about
3 times as long as they are across, rather than 2 times as long as they
are across, 2) its leaves often have a patch of dark red in their
3) the lobes of its ovaries/capsules have appressed hairs, rather than
spreading hairs, and 4) its mature seed capsules are often found below
the leaves on curved stalks, rather than above the leaves on erect
stalks. Scientific synonyms of Green Creeping Spurge include Euphorbia
. Another common name of this species is