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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Creeping spurge  (Euphorbia (=Chamaesyce) serpens)

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Life stages of Creeping spurge mature plant leaves and flowers seedling fruit stem seeds and fruits

Creeping spurge is a summer annual broadleaf plant. In California it is found in the Central Valley, southern South Coast Ranges, and southwestern region, to about 700 feet (200 m) and inhabits agricultural lands and other disturbed places. Spurge species have a milky, sticky sap that can cause contact dermatitis in humans and animals. If consumed, some spurge species 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. Creeping spurge can behave as a weak perennial, overwintering in milder climates of California. It is becoming more problematic in nursery production and landscapes.


Yards, landscaped areas, walkways, roadsides, gardens, turf, orchards, vineyards, crop fields, nursery grounds and containers.


Leaves are opposite one another along the stem.

Mature plant

Creeping spurge typically has prostrate stems that can reach 20 inches (50 cm) in length, with alternating branches. Stems often root at stem joints (nodes). Leaves are egg shaped to slightly oblong, hairless, small—roughly 1/12 to 1/3 of an inch (2–7 mm) long, and light green. It has no distinct leaf markings as found on spotted spurge leaves, C. maculata, which have a characteristic red spot. Leaves have short stalks and are opposite to one another along the stem.


Tiny flowers are grouped in small flowerlike cups with white, petal-like appendages surrounding the actual flowers. Flower clusters are found at the stem tips and along the length of the stem. Where the stem and leaf stalks meet (leaf axil), one to two small flower clusters are produced.


The seedpod or capsule is almost round, roughly 1/17 of an inch (1.5 mm) long, hairless, and has three lobes. Each capsule has three chambers, each with one seed. Spotted spurge capsules are similar in size, but egg shaped and evenly hairy.


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


Reproduces by seed and creeping stems that root at the stem joints (nodes).

Related or similar plants

  • Spotted spurge, Euphorbia (=Chamaesyce) maculata
  • Prostrate spurge, Euphorbia (=Chamaesyce) peplus

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