Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Chamaesyce serpyllifolia - Thyme-leaved Spurge

Family: Euphorbiaceae - Spurge [E-flora]

"Euphorbia serpyllifolia is a ANNUAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft).
The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Insects. Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil." [PFAF]

Subtaxa Present in B.C.

"General: Annual herb from a fibrous root; stems usually prostrate, freely branched with milky juice, 5-30 cm long. Leaves: Obliquely oblong to more oblong egg-shaped, toothed near the tip, 5-15 mm long; stipules at the base lanceolate, irregularly margined, 0.5-1.5 mm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Dry, sandy or gravelly sites in the lowland and steppe vegetation zones; rare on S Vancouver Island and SC BC; E to MB and S to MO, TX, NM, CA and MX." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]


Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Thymeleaf sandmat was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is not normally used in modern herbalism and any use of this plant should be done with great care because of its potentially toxic nature[K]." [PFAF]

Cultivation & Propagation

"We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain. Other members of the genus prefer a light well-drained moderately rich loam in an open position[200]. Succeeds in dry soils[1]. Hybridizes with other members of this genus[200]. The ripe seed is released explosively from the seed capsules[200]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[233]. This genus has been singled out as a potential source of latex (for making rubber) for the temperate zone, although no individual species has been singled out[141]." [PFAF]

"Seed - sow spring in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 20oc." [PFAF]

Synonyms References

Chamaesyce Sp. - Spurge

"Habit: Annual to shrub [tree; fleshy, +- cactus-like], glabrous or hairy; sap milky; generally monoecious. Stem: prostrate to erect, generally < 1 m; branches arrayed around main stem(s) in 3-dimensions or 2-ranked, resulting in 2-faced stems with adaxial leaf faces all displayed to top side and abaxial leaf faces to bottom side. Leaf: proximal cauline, alternate or opposite, +- sessile to petioled; distal-most cauline in some species whorled, subtending umbel-like cluster of inflorescence branches, leafy bracts distal to whorled leaves generally opposite (whorled); stipules 0, gland-like, thread-like, or scale-like, free or fused, entire to divided; blade entire or toothed (pinnately lobed), base symmetric or asymmetric. Inflorescence: 1° inflorescence a cyathium, resembling a flower; cyathia 1--many, stalked or sessile, terminal (axillary), in generally leafy-bracted cyme-like arrays; cyathium a compact unit comprising an involucre of 5 fused bracts enclosing 1--many reduced staminate flowers and 1(0) pistillate flower; involucre generally 1--5 mm, bract tips alternate with 1--5 nectary glands (derived from modified stipules of involucre bracts), these transversely crescent-shaped or oblong to +- round, flat to cup-like, entire, toothed, or with 2 horn-like lobes, with or without distal, white to pink or red, flat, petal-like appendages; bractlets within involucre membranous or thread-like, often fringed. Staminate Flower: (1--4)5--many, generally in 5 clusters around pistillate flower (this difficult to observe); calyx 0; each staminate flower a single stamen jointed to tip of a thread-like pedicel; pedicel persistent, stamen deciduous after pollen released. Pistillate Flower: (0)1, central, stalked; calyx 0; ovary chambers 3, styles 3, free or fused at base, undivided or +- deeply forked. Fruit: stalk generally elongating, generally curved, pushing developing fruit from involucre; capsule +- spheric to ovoid or oblong, in ×-section +- round to 3-lobed or -angled. Seed: +- round or +- 3- or 4-angled (flattened) in ×-section, smooth or sculptured; knob-like appendage at attachment scar present or 0.
Species In Genus: +- 1750 species: warm and/or dry temperate to tropics worldwide. Etymology: Euphorbus, physician to the King of Mauritania, 1st century Note: Forms monophyletic group with Chamaesyce, included here. Euphorbia serrata L. considered extirpated from California; 2003 report that Euphorbia exigua L. is possibly naturalizing as yet unconfirmed; Euphorbia marginata Pursh occasionally persisting from gardens, but recent records lacking. Euphorbia graminea Jacq. an urban weed. For fruit, seeds, "in ×-section" indicated only if not lobed or angled." [Jepson]

Local Species;
  1. Chamaesyce glyptosperma - Corrugate-seeded spurge [E-flora]
  2. Chamaesyce maculata - Milk spurge [E-flora]
  3. Chamaesyce serpyllifolia - Thyme-leaved spurge [E-flora]

Chamaesyce glyptosperma - Corrugate-seeded spurge

"General: Annual herb from a fibrous root; stems prostrate, freely branched, often mat-forming, glabrous, with milky juice, 5-40 cm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Leaves: Stem leaves opposite, lanceolate to oblong, 5-15 mm long, scalloped-toothed to entire, stipules linear, segmented unequally, 1 mm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Dry disturbed areas, meadows and open forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; frequent in SC BC, less frequent in SW and SE BC; E to PQ and NB; S to MO, OH, TX, CA and MX." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]


Chamaesyce maculata - Milk spurge

"General: Annual herb from a fibrous root; stems prostrate, softly hairy to bristly, with milky juice, 10-40 cm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Leaves: Stem leaves opposite, obliquely oblong, 5-15 mm, long, often with a deep red central spot, somewhat toothed, hairy beneath, glabrous above; stipules linear, 0.5 mm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Dry disturbed sites and waste places in the lowland zone; rare in SW and SC BC; introduced from S U.S." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Exotic [E-flora]


  • Chamaesyce mathewsii Small [E-flora]
  • Chamaesyce preslii (Guss.) Arthur [E-flora]
  • Chamaesyce supina (Raf.) H. Hara [E-flora]
  • Chamaesyce tracyi Small [E-flora]
  • Euphorbia maculata auct. non L. [E-flora]
  • Euphorbia maculata L. [E-flora]
  • Euphorbia nutans Lag. [E-flora]
  • Euphorbia preslii Guss. [E-flora]
  • Euphorbia supina Raf. [E-flora]


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