Beauty in expected places: Tiny keeping watch this morning from her aerie atop the woodpile.
. . . Baby reading scent messages left by the previous night's visitors among the ivy leaves on the house next door.
It's not a true Purslane (of the family Portulacaceae), but two of its common names are Milk Purslane and Prostrate Purslane. Because it is a member of the Spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, we prefer two of its other common names, Milk Spurge and Prostrate Spurge. (x 16)
. . . and in unexpected places. The delicate colors and unusual morphology of the flowers (see below) of the weedy native Milk Purslane or Prostrate Purslane -- AKA Milk Spurge or Prostrate Spurge (Chamaesyce maculata; also called Euphorbia maculata, Euphorbia supina, and Euphorbia prostrata) -- are too small to make out with the naked eye. That's where your digital camera's macro settings come in. We found the specimen pictured here growing in the crack between sidewalk and curb down the street. Actual size of the white part of the flowers is 1/16" across. Note pubescence (hairiness) of stem (below), one of the identifying characteristics that distinguishes Prostrate Spurge from other mat-forming weeds of similar size and habit.
The real flower -- the business end of the inflorescence where fertilization and seed production occur -- is that pale lime-colored pouch on the left in the inset.
From Nearctica's online Wildflowers of Eastern North America:
Plant matted, trailing along the ground. Flowers complicated with both male and female flowers. Male flowers 3 to 5, reduced to almost nothing but a single stamen each. Female flower a round, three-part structure hanging from a flowerlike structure with white "petals." Stem thick, usually reddish . . . a weedy species found along roadsides and in dry fields.
We found this specimen growing in the container of one of our tomato plants.
Fascinating facts from the website Weed Management in Nursery Crops:
Prostrate Spurge is in the same family as the common Christmas Poinsettia, and [like] Poinsettia it has a milky sap that exudes when stems are broken. This makes it easy to differentiate spurge from similar looking weeds like Common Purslane and Prostrate Knotweed.
Exactly. We had been having that very problem, as look-alikes Common Purslane [unrelated to Milk Purslane] and Prostrate Knotweed are part of the same edge-of-the-sidewalk plant community that thrives in the dry, impoverished soil of waste places like the margin of Marginal Street. Unable to identify our plant using the key in Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, we turned to Google, plugging in "prostrate weed." Can you say piece of cake? Breaking one of the stems, we were delighted to observe natural white latex oozing out. Once our ID was confirmed, we went back to look up Euphorbia supina in Newcomb's index and found they had keyed it under "Wildflowers with opposite or whorled leaves, leaves entire, plants with milky juice." A reminder to pay close attention to the plant itself for clues to identification. In light of the images above, we were amused with Newcomb's dismissal of Prostrate Spurge's aesthetic appeal:
Unattractive plants with . . . insignificant whitish, green or reddish flowers scattered in the upper axils.
Eye of the macro lens holder?
Update: Pajamas Media links with "The prostrate spurge mystery."
Update II: Lots more beauty in expected places at Carnival of the Cats #178, a "collection of Web-Based Feline Wonderfullness" hosted by Maddie and Ivy of Strange Ranger.