Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Spergula arvensis
(corn spurry)



Spergula arvensis (corn spurry)


  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Spergula arvensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • corn spurry
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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Corn spurry shoot (stems 15-60 cm) and inflorescence (right) showing white flowers and capsules.
TitleShoot and inflorescence
CaptionCorn spurry shoot (stems 15-60 cm) and inflorescence (right) showing white flowers and capsules.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Corn spurry shoot (stems 15-60 cm) and inflorescence (right) showing white flowers and capsules.
Shoot and inflorescenceCorn spurry shoot (stems 15-60 cm) and inflorescence (right) showing white flowers and capsules.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Spergula arvensis L. (1753)

Preferred Common Name

  • corn spurry

Other Scientific Names

  • Spergula linicola Boreau.
  • Spergula maxima Weihe.
  • Spergula sativa Boenn.
  • Spergula vulgaris Boenn.

International Common Names

  • English: spurry (New Zealand)
  • Spanish: esparcilla; espergula de los campos; mardoquera (Colombia); mosquera; pasto pinito (Chile); pel de boc; spergula abrojillo (Argentina)
  • French: petite spergoute; spargoute des champs; spourier
  • Portuguese: esparguta

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: gorga
  • Chile: linacilla
  • Colombia: agujillas; anisillo; mardo quea; miona
  • Denmark: almendelig
  • East Africa: spurrey
  • Ecuador: alfarillo
  • Finland: peltohatikka
  • Germany: Acker-Spark; Sporgel
  • India: bandhamia; mun-muna; pittpapra
  • Italy: renaiola
  • Japan: noharatsumekusa
  • Netherlands: spurrie
  • Norway: linbendel; spergel
  • Philippines: devil's gut
  • South Africa: sporrie
  • Sweden: akerspargel
  • Taiwan: da-gwa-tsau

EPPO code

  • SPRAR (Spergula arvensis)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Caryophyllaceae
  •                             Genus: Spergula
  •                                 Species: Spergula arvensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Spergula arvensis is the universally accepted name for this common and widespread annual weed. Two genetically distinct morphs have been described in the UK, S. arvensis var. arvensis and S. arvensis var. sativum (New, 1961, 1978). Chromosome number is 2n = 18 (Stace, 1997).


Top of page S. arvensis is an erect, ascending or spreading annual herb; stems 15 to 60 cm tall, profusely branched below, slender, conspicuously jointed and somewhat sticky, not hairy or only sparsely hairy; taproot and secondary roots finely branched; leaves appearing as whorls at each joint of the stem, threadlike, bright green, 1.5 to 4 cm long, rounded on the upper surface, and grooved lengthwise on the lower surface, with minute yellowish-brown stipules; flowers in terminal clusters, small, perfect, more or less flat topped, often spreading, with the central flower opening first (cyme); sepals five, nearly separate, green and white, glandular; petals five, white; stamens 10 (occasionally five) ; pistil one, with five styles, five-valved; fruit round, a one-celled capsule splitting into five sections containing many seeds; seeds thick, lens-shaped, dull black, the surface roughened by minute rounded, protruding bodies, rarely smooth, about 1.5 mm in diameter, with a conspicuous, narrow, light coloured wing on the margin (from Holm et al., 1977).

The two varieties may be distinguished on the basis of seed morphology: seeds of var. arvensis have an extremely narrow wing (sometimes this is absent) and are covered by clavate papillae; seeds of var. sativum have no papillae and a wider wing (Stace, 1997). Hanf (1983) describes ssp. sativum as larger and more robust than S. arvensis.


Top of page S. arvensis is most widely distributed as a weed in temperate regions, but does enter the tropics where it competes with crops at higher elevations. It is found on all continents, occurring as a weed as far north as northern Finland and Alaska, USA, and as far south as Tasmania, Australia. As a ruderal species it may be found north of the Arctic circle. In Kenya, the species is most troublesome above 2500 m, in the Philippines it is found above 2000 m and in Jamaica above 1800 m.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


BhutanPresentParker, 1992
IndiaPresentJaiswal, 1994
IndonesiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
IsraelPresentHolm et al., 1991
JapanWidespreadNumata et al., 1975; Holm et al., 1991
-HokkaidoPresentNumata et al., 1975
-HonshuPresentNumata et al., 1975
-KyushuPresentNumata et al., 1975
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentNumata et al., 1975
-ShikokuPresentNumata et al., 1975
Korea, DPRPresentHolm et al., 1991
Korea, Republic ofPresentHolm et al., 1991
PakistanPresentHolm et al., 1991
PhilippinesWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
TaiwanPresentHolm et al., 1991


EthiopiaPresentHolm et al., 1991
KenyaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
LesothoPresentWells et al., 1986
MoroccoPresentLansari, 1985
South AfricaPresentWells et al., 1986; Holm et al., 1991
-Canary IslandsPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
TanzaniaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
UgandaPresentHolm et al., 1991
ZimbabwePresentWild, 1961

North America

CanadaPresentHolm et al., 1991
USAPresentHolm et al., 1991
-AlabamaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-AlaskaPresentHolm et al., 1991
-ArizonaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ArkansasPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-CaliforniaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ColoradoPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ConnecticutPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-DelawarePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-FloridaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-GeorgiaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-HawaiiPresentHolm et al., 1991
-IdahoPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IllinoisPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IowaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-KansasPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-LouisianaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MainePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MarylandPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MassachusettsPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MichiganPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MinnesotaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MississippiPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MissouriPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-NebraskaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New HampshirePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New JerseyPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New MexicoPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-New YorkPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-North CarolinaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-South DakotaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-TexasPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-VermontPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-VirginiaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-WashingtonPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-WisconsinPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987

Central America and Caribbean

JamaicaPresentHolm et al., 1991
United States Virgin IslandsPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987

South America

ArgentinaPresentHolm et al., 1991
BoliviaPresentOtazu et al., 1985
BrazilWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentLorenzi, 1982
ChileWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
ColombiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
EcuadorPresentHolm et al., 1991


AlbaniaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
AndorraPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
AustriaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
BelarusPresentTereshschuk et al., 1996; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
BelgiumPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
Bosnia-HercegovinaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
BulgariaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
CroatiaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
Czech RepublicPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentHilbig and Volf, 1984; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
DenmarkPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
EstoniaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
FinlandWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
FrancePresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
-CorsicaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
GermanyWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
GibraltarPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
GreecePresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
HungaryPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
IcelandPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
IrelandWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
ItalyPresentBianco, 1977; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
LatviaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
LiechtensteinPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
LithuaniaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993; Monstvilaite et al., 1996
LuxembourgPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
MacedoniaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
MaltaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
MoldovaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
MonacoPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
NetherlandsPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993; Theunissen et al., 1995
NorwayWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
PolandPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
PortugalPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
-AzoresPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
-MadeiraPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
RomaniaPresentCiorlaus, 1983; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
Russian FederationPresentHolm et al., 1991
San MarinoPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
SlovakiaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
SloveniaPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
SpainPresentHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
SwedenWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
SwitzerlandPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
UKWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
-Channel IslandsPresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
UkrainePresentGamor, 1988; Ratter and Akeroyd, 1993
Yugoslavia (former)PresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)PresentRatter and Akeroyd, 1993


AustraliaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
-New South WalesPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-QueenslandPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-South AustraliaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-TasmaniaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Holm et al., 1991
-VictoriaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
New ZealandWidespreadHolm et al., 1991


Top of page S. arvensis grows in open, disturbed habitats and on arable land. It is never a member of closed plant communities, but may sometimes be found in grasslands or clover swards in the first year following cultivation, when gaps in the canopy are encountered (Holm et al., 1977). It favours acid soils (pH 4.6 to 5) and Ervio et al. (1994) reported that in Finland it was most common in soils where the extractable calcium concentration was below 1000 mg/litre of soil. S. arvensis prefers light, sandy soils (Hallgren, 1996), but can grow well on heavy soils. In the UK, it can be found on peaty soils, but in Sweden it does not favour soils with a high organic matter content (Holm et al. 1977). Towards the tropical regions the plant requires high altitudes to be competitive with crop plants.

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page S. arvensis has been reported as a weed of 25 crops in 33 countries (Holm et al., 1977). It is not associated with any particular crop or set of crops, but has been reported as a weed of cereals in almost all parts of the world, and grows with equal vigour in wheat, oats, root crops and flax (Linum usitatissimum).

Biology and Ecology

Top of page In temperate regions, S. arvensis behaves as a summer annual. In the UK most seeds germinate in mid or late April and may be expected to flower after 8 weeks, and produce mature seeds in 10 weeks. Flowering and seeding continues until the plant dies (Holm et al., 1977). In Canada mature plants flower between July and August, shedding seed from July onward. In California, USA germination follows the first heavy rains in autumn and continues until the habitat dries up in spring (Wagner, 1984). S. arvensis may produce very large numbers of seed in a short time, a large, extensively branched individual producing as many as 7500 seeds. Seed production has been shown to decrease as moisture stress increases (Trivedi and Tripathi, 1982). Champness and Morris (1948) reported a density of 4 million seeds per hectare in a grassland site in the UK.

Germination behaviour and dormancy patterns are complex and variable between populations and seed morphs (Wagner, 1988). Two distinct seed morphs are produced, one smooth, the other papillate. Individual plants produce only one type of seed (New, 1961). The papillate seeds exhibit greater germination at 21°C, the smooth seeds at 13°C (Holm et al., 1977). Muslemanie (1994) reported that S. arvensis had no primary dormancy and could therefore germinate immediately following dispersal. However, when studying germination characteristics in individuals from a range of populations, Wagner (1988) found that freshly produced seeds from grassland and ruderal populations were dormant at the time of dispersal, whilst those from cultivated land were not. Bouwmeester and Karssen (1993) illustrated clear seasonal patterns of dormancy in three successive years; dormancy was broken in spring by rising temperatures and re-induced in autumn as temperatures fell. In incubation tests dormancy patterns were clearly influenced by a range of environmental variables; irradiation with red light, addition of N, and desiccation prior to germination tests all strongly promoted germination. Håkansson (1982) showed that germination was favoured by temperature fluctuations between 7 and 17°C or 17 and 27°C.

Most seedlings of S. arvensis emerge from seeds at, or near to the soil surface. Seeds are able to survive burial in the soil for short periods. Conn and Deck (1995) reported less than 1% survival after 9.7 years. Burial depth has a significant effect on seed survival, with viability remaining higher at 15 than at 2 cm (Conn, 1990).

Seed dispersal occurs through a number of mechanisms. Viable seeds have been found in the droppings of horses, sheep, pigs, cattle and a number of bird species. Short-distance dispersal is by water and mud on animals, by the feet of humans and by agricultural machines. The seeds may also be distributed in commercial grain seed (Holm et al., 1977).

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Little research has been conducted to establish the natural enemies of S. arvensis. A study by Veerman (1974) mentions a large spider mite, Schizonobia sycophanta, which feeds on S. arvensis.


Top of page S. arvensis is one of the three most serious weeds of cereals in Kenya, and of wheat and barley in Finland, where, in an extensive survey, it was found to a have a higher average density per field than any other weed species. It is a principal weed in Alaska (cereals and pastures), Germany (flax), New Zealand (maize, peas, vegetables and wheat), Norway (vegetables, barley, oats and wheat), the Philippines (vegetables), Colombia (corn and oats), Sweden (barley, oats, potatoes and wheat), Ireland (peas) and Tanzania (wheat). It is also common in Australia, the UK, India, Portugal, France, Japan and Brazil (Holm et al., 1977). In field studies in the USA, interference from populations of S. arvensis reduced shoot weights of English pea (Pisum sativum) and kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) by 93% and 72%, respectively (Harrison and Peterson, 1997). These authors believe that an allelopathic effect is involved, as did Tsuzuki and Araki (1984) who noted that Brassica rapa [B. campestris var. rapa], tomatoes and radishes were 'remarkably inhibited' by S. arvensis. They showed that extracts from the leaves and stems inhibited seedling emergence and growth.

S. arvensis has been reported as an alternative host of a number of crop pathogens. Pseudomonas solanacearum [Ralstonia solanacearum] was found associated with the rhizosphere and root tissues of S. arvensis in potato crops (Kishore et al., 1993). The weed has been shown to be susceptible to two beet yellowing viruses, beet yellows closterovirus (BYV) and beet mild yellowing luteovirus (BMYV) (Stevens et al., 1994). In Bolivia, it has been reported as a host of false root nematode of potatoes (Nacobbus aberrans) (Otazu et al., 1985), in India of white rust of crucifers (Albugo candida) (Srivastava et al., 1986) and in Poland of Meloidogyne hapla (Dolna, 1984).


Top of page S. arvensis was used as a food source for man during the 3rd to 5th centuries AD. in northern Europe. In more recent times it has been used for making bread during times of shortage in the same area. Its ability to germinate late in the season, grow quickly and mature into autumn has, in some instances, made it a valuable fodder crop. It is generally palatable to stock, but is particularly favoured by cattle and sheep (Holm et al., 1977). Theunissen and den Ouden (1980) intercropped S. arvensis with Brussels sprouts, and showed that in addition to providing shelter and having a beneficial effect on soil structure, it significantly reduced the density of a number of pests, including Mamestra brassicae and Evergestis forficalis.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Forage


  • Shade and shelter

Human food and beverage

  • Emergency (famine) food


  • Pesticide

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page S. arvensis may be confused with Spergularia rubra (sand spurry). This species, however, has pink petals and a leafy cyme. In the Middle East, the closely related S. fallax is very similar, but has broadly winged seeds and leaves not grooved below

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control

Seed of S. arvensis is not able to emerge from great depths and hence regular cultivation will bury a proportion of seeds to depths from which they are unable to establish. However, whilst cultivation decreases the number of seeds at or near to the soil surface, burial in the soil profile increases the longevity of seeds which will eventually be returned to the soil surface by successive cultivations.

In field trials in Poland, mineral fertilization (addition of N and Ca) of spring barley eliminated S. arvensis (Borowiec et al., 1985). Yadav et al. (1995) successfully controlled this weed by employing integrated weed management strategies which combined pre-emergence spraying of isoproturon with an increase in N fertilization and application of the stale seed bed technique.

Chemical Control

Chemical control of S. arvensis has been reported in a number of crops using a range of pre- and post-emergence herbicides. Trials conducted in Russia by Lyzenko et al. (1992) showed that a mixture of chlorsulfuron + 2,4-D effectively controlled a number of 2,4-D resistant weeds including S. arvensis in spring wheat. Chlorsulfuron was similarly effective in barley in Canada (Ivany, 1987). In the south-west Cape, South Africa, 89% suppression of S. arvensis was achieved in wheat and barley using triasulfuron, 96% control was attained with a tank mixture of triasulfuron + bromoxynil (van Biljon et al., 1988). In India, post-emergence applications of terbutryn and isoproturon were effective in wheat (Tiwari et al., 1987). Post-emergence application of phenmedipham in sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) ensured 100% control of S. arvensis (Costa et al., 1984), while pendimethalin significantly reduced populations in Indian potato crops (Husain and Ghosh, 1985). The weed was eradicated from root crops including sweet potatoes, cassava, yam and potatoes in the Philippines following pre-emergence application of ametryne (Robles, 1979). Herbicide recommendations are given by Mamarot and Rodriguez (1997) for control of S. arvensis in a wide range of crops, for example, for the use of linuron in potato, soyabean and sunflower; phenmedipham and metamitron in sugarbeet; metazachlor in rape; metribuzin, metsulfuron and metobromuron in potato; metsulfuron, terbutryne and tribenuron in cereals; oxadiazon in soyabean and sunflower and pendimethalin in sunflower and maize.


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