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The taxonomy of the Ground Spurges is rather confused. Some authorities assign them to the Euphorbia genus, rather than the Chamaesyce genus. Over the years, reassignment of the names of species has been rather common. Other scientific names for Prostrate Spurge include Euphorbia supina and Chamaesyce supina. Sometimes Chamaesyce nutans (Nodding Spurge) is incorrectly referred to as Chamaesyce maculata. Another problem is that the Ground Spurges are similar in appearance and difficult to identify. The use of a magnifying glass is sometimes required. Prostrate Spurge can be distinguished from many Ground Spurges on the basis of its hairy stems and hairy seed capsules. This is still insufficient to distinguish it from the very similar Chamaesyce humistrata (Spreading Spurge), if indeed they are separate species. According to the Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers (2000) by Kay Yatskievych, the slit in the cup-like bract of Prostrate Spurge is 1/4–1/3 the length of the bract, while the corresponding slit in Spreading Spurge is 1/2 the length of the bract. On top of each seed capsule, there are 3 tiny styles that are each divided into 2 parts toward the apex. According to the Vascular Flora of Illinois (2002) by Robert Mohlenbrock, the styles of Prostrate Spurge are 0.3–0.5 mm. in length and divided less than halfway to the base, while the styles of Spreading Spurge are about 0.7 mm. in length and divided halfway to the base.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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