Spotted spurge is a summer annual. While similar to prostate spurge, there are several subtle differences in the two varieties. Spotted spurge has a more erect growth habit than prostrate spurge. They have similar leaves, which are small and oblong shaped with an irregular red to purple spot, but the leaf of spotted spurge is slightly larger than that of prostrate spurge. Both spurges will have leaves that grow opposite on the stem, but spotted spurge has fewer leaves per stem. Both spurges contain a milky sap in the stem. Prostrate spurge roots at the nodes, spotted spurge does not. The flower of spotted spurge is small and green in color. It germinates in mid spring and flowers from June to September. Both spotted and prostrate spurge reproduce from seed, although prostrate spurge also roots at the nodes. Both spurges are found throughout the United States.
Spurge can tolerate compact soil conditions and is often found invading high traffic or otherwise stressed turf areas. It is generally not found in dense, healthy stands of turfgrass, so good maintenance practices constitute good prevention of infestation. Where high traffic is the problem, core aerate and attempt to divert traffic where possible. Physical removal of single plants can be easily accomplished. Follow good turf management practices including disease and insect control and proper fertilization.
A pre-emergence herbicide may prevent some spurge germination. Use a post-emergence broadleaf herbicide as needed to eradicate spurge infestation. For optimum control, make your herbicide application to spurge that is actively growing and in the four-leaf to flower stage of growth.