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Biology and Management of Graceful Sandmat (Euphorbia hypericifolia) in Ornamental Crop Production

Theresa Chormanski, Chris Marble, and Lyn Gettys

Species Description


Dicotyledonous plant



Other Common Names

spurge, sandmat spurge, yerba nina (Hammer 2015)

Life Span

Summer annual


Graceful sandmat occurs in pine forests, disturbed areas, roadsides, turf areas, landscape beds, and nursery containers. It is most often found in areas receiving full to partial sun. It can grow in dry or wet environments with a short hydroperiod and has been observed growing in wetland habitats and borders of marshes and ponds.


Graceful sandmat is native to North America and is found throughout Florida, the southern United States, and other tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world (Chen and Wu, 2004; USDA, NRCS, 2015).

Growth Habit

Erect, upright growing herb (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Graceful sandmat growing in a mulched landscape bed. Notice the upright growth habit.
Figure 1.  Graceful sandmat growing in a mulched landscape bed. Notice the upright growth habit.
Credit: Annette Chandler, UF/IFAS


Cotyledons are dark green with round, opposite leaves and red stems.


Graceful sandmat can grow over 2 ft tall but normally grows to less than 1 ft tall. Stems are round, thin (1 to 2 mm), red, and sometimes wiry but never woody. Leaves are purplish red to green, elliptic in shape, 1 to 2.5 cm in length, oppositely arranged, and have red petioles and red interpetiolar stipules (Figure 2). The base of the leaf is unequal. Leaf margins appear to be entire but are slightly denticulate (toothed or serrate) upon closer examination. Leaves are crowded toward the top of the stem while the lower portion of the stem is bare (due to leaf drop over time). All parts of the stem and leaves exude a milky sap when broken.

Figure 2. Graceful sandmat stem. Notice presence of red petioles and red stipules near the base of each leaf.
Figure 2.  Graceful sandmat stem. Notice presence of red petioles and red stipules near the base of each leaf.
Credit: Annette Chandler, UF/IFAS


Weak taproot


Small, cyanthia flowers with four reddish to white to green petals (Figure 3)

Figure 3. Graceful sandmat inflorescence.
Figure 3.  Graceful sandmat inflorescence.
Credit: Theresa Chormanski


Fruit and Seeds

Fruit is a small, green schizocarp (dry fruit) that splits into three parts. Seeds are very small and are dark brown to black when mature.

Similar Species

While many types of sandmat are common in Florida nurseries, E. hyssopifolia is one of the species more closely related to E. hypericifolia and may be mistakenly identified as E. hyssopifolia. Both species have fruit and stems that are glabrous and are distinguished by the length of their stipules and fruit. Euphorbia hypericifolia has conspicuous stipules that are longer than wide (1–1.5 mm long) and shorter fruit (less than 1.3 mm long). Euphorbia hyssopifolia has inconspicuous stipules and longer fruits (more than 1.3 mm long) (Figure 4) (Wunderlin and Hansen 2008a, b).

Smaller capsules of E. hypericifolia on left and larger capsules of E. hyssopifolia on the right.
Figure 4. Smaller capsules of E. hypericifolia on left and larger capsules of E. hyssopifolia on the right.
Credit: Annette Chandler, UF/IFAS

Plant Biology

Graceful sandmat is a summer annual weed, but it can grow throughout the year in southern and central Florida if frost does not occur. The weed is fast growing and begins to flower and produce seeds when young. Seeds are generally produced from late spring to the end of fall. Populations can increase quickly because seeds have no dormancy requirement and can germinate immediately. Although little data exist on the optimal temperatures for E. hypericifolia germination, many spurge species such as E. supina have the highest germination rates between approximately 75°F and 85°F (Krueger and Shaner 1982).


Physical and Cultural Control

Graceful sandmat is most problematic in container nurseries because it is often found growing in container media. Graceful sandmat can also grow in landscape beds and other disturbed areas. Due to its prolific seed production, graceful sandmat must be removed by hand when it is small and before it begins to flower and produce seeds. However, hand weeding is labor intensive because graceful sandmat produces a large number of seedlings, and the size and color of these seedlings make them difficult to see against the container media. Spurge (sandmat) germination is higher when seeds are exposed to light. Cochran et al. (2009) found that applying mulch at depths of 0.5 to 1.0 inch reduced germination of other spurge species, so similar mulching may also be an effective control against graceful sandmat.

Chemical Control


Most preemergence herbicides provide control of sandmats (Chamaesyce spp.). However, these species continue to be difficult to control due the number of seeds they produce and how rapidly they grow. Researchers have noted that in general, dinitroaniline herbicides (e.g., pendimethalin, prodiamine, etc.) are more effective than oxadiazon or oxyfluorfen (Neal and Derr 2005). Little data exist on the most effective herbicides for graceful sandmat; however, herbicides that provide control of other sandmat (or spurge) species will likely be effective. A partial list of preemergence herbicides labeled for use in ornamentals for control of Chamaesyce spp. is given in Table 1.


Contact and systemic (translocated) herbicides labeled for use in and around nurseries will control spurges. A list of postemergence herbicides labeled for use in nurseries and landscapes is available at Weeds should be sprayed when they are small and actively growing in order for the herbicides to work effectively and to prevent further seed production. When weeds are growing in container-grown crops, especially small containers, postemergence herbicides cannot be applied without causing potential damage to the ornamental crop. Growers should focus their efforts on increasing sanitation efforts, following proper cultural management practices, and using labeled preemergence herbicides.


Mention of a commercial or herbicide brand name or chemical does not constitute a recommendation or warranty of the product by the authors or the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, nor does it imply its approval to the exclusion of other products that may also be suitable. Products should be used according to label instructions and safety equipment required on the label and by federal or state law should be employed. Pesticide registrations may change, so it is the responsibility of the user to ascertain if a pesticide is registered by the appropriate state and federal agencies for its intended use.


Chen, S. H., and M. J. Wu. 2004. "Chamaesyce hypericifolia (L.) Millsp., A Newly Naturalized Spurge Species in Taiwan." Taiwania 49:102–108.

Cochran, D. R., C. H. Gilliam, D. J. Eakes, G. R. Wehtje, P. R. Knight, and J. Olive. 2009. "Mulch Depth Affects Weed Germination." J. Environ. Hort. 27: 85–90.

Hammer, R. L. 2015. Everglades Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Historic Everglades, including Big Cypress, Corkscrew, and Fakahatchee Swamps. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 256.

Krueger, R. R. and D. L. Shaner. 1982. "Germination and Establishment of Prostrate Spurge (Euphorbia Supina)." Weed Science 30: 286–290.

Mallory-Smith, C. A., and E. J. Retzinger. 2003. "Revised Classification of Herbicides by Site of Action for Weed Resistance Management Strategies." Weed Technology 17 (3): 605–619.

Neal, J. C., and J. F. Derr. 2005. Weeds of Container Nurseries in the United States. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Assoc. of Nurserymen, Inc.

USDA National Resources Conservation Service. 2014. "Chamaesyce hypericifolia (L.) Millsp. graceful sandmat." The PLANTS Database,

Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008a. "Chamaesyce hyssopfolia." Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants.

Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008b. "Chamaesyce hypericifolia." Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants.

Table 1. 

Preemergence herbicides labeled for use in ornamental plant production and landscapes for control of spurge (Euphorbia) species1.

Publication #ENH1261

Date: 2/20/2022

Related Experts

Marble, Stephen Christopher

University of Florida

Gettys, Lyn A.

University of Florida

Chormanski, Theresa

Miami Dade College

  • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is ENH1261, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date June 2015. Revised November 2018 and February 2022. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Theresa Chormanski, doctor of plant medicine student; Chris Marble, assistant professor; Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center; and Lyn Gettys, assistant professor, Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale REC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Stephen Marble