The Toxic Doppelganger of Purslane: How to Keep This Look-Alike Weed Off Your Lawn


Discovering the Secrets of Purslane and Avoiding Toxic Spurge in Your Garden

Navigating the Purslane-Spurge Confusion

As you meander through your garden, you might stumble upon a plant that captures your attention – could it be the delightful edible purslane or its unwelcome lookalike, the toxic spurge? Knowing how to discern between these two is vital, especially if you’re an aspiring forager or an avid gardener. With this guide, we’ll shed light on how to distinguish the healthful purslane from its noxious doppelgänger, spurge.

The Importance of Differentiating Spurge from Purslane

For those just stepping into the world of foraging, recognizing harmful plants is paramount. Spurge is a plant to keep on your radar, mainly because it often gets mistaken for purslane, which happens to be a nutritional powerhouse in the wild plant kingdom. Here’s how to differentiate the toxic spurge from the benevolent purslane.

Why the Mix-Up?

At a glance, purslane and spurge could pass off as siblings:

  • Both are ground-hugging annuals
  • Their stems share a reddish hue
  • Their leaves are similarly shaped ovals
  • They both relish the same growing conditions, often nestling side by side

Spotting the Differences: Spurge vs Purslane

Two common spurges that are often confused with purslane are the prostrate spurge (Euphorbia prostrata) and the spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata). These two, like purslane, are ground creepers with red-tinged stems. However, a closer inspection reveals distinct characteristics for each.

Leaves Tell the Tale

Though purslane and spurge leaves are both oval, they present clear differences:

Purslane flaunts plump, smooth-edged leaves that group together in clusters at the stem’s tip.

Spurge has flatter, non-succulent leaves with jagged edges, sitting opposite each other along the stem.

Stems Stand Out

The stem of a plant can be quite telling:

  • Purslane’s stems are thick and juicy, breaking without any sap.
  • Spurge’s stems are leaner, sometimes hairy, and often release a telltale white sap when snapped.

Mixed Company: Purslane and Spurge Side by Side

These two plants love to mingle in the same patch of earth, so it’s essential to scrutinize before you forage.

Summing Up: Spurge vs Purslane Identifiers

To recap, here’s what to look for:

  • Purslane: Succulent leaves and stems, grouped leaves without sap.
  • Spurge: Non-succulent, serrated leaves in pairs, thin stems with potential white sap.

Armed with this knowledge, venture into your garden or wild spaces with confidence. Seek out the nutritional gems and sidestep the harmful misfits. Happy foraging!