- How to Propagate Purslane Flowers
- From Seeds
- From Cuttings
- Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
- Common plants and weeds that you didn’t know you could eat
- Power-Packed Purslane
- Wild and Cultivated Best Sources of Omega-3 Linolenic Acid
- More on Purslane:
- How to Manage Pests
- Pests in Gardens and Landscapes
- How to Kill Purslane
How to Propagate Purslane Flowers
Purslane, or Portulaca oleracea, is a half-hardy annual herb that can grow in all USDA gardening zones. Often considered a weed because of its prolific ability to spread, many gardeners grow it for its medicinal properties. Young foliage of purslane can be eaten in salads. The flowers of purslane are bright yellow, with five petals that soon turn into a seed head.
Fill a shallow planting container, like an unused sandbox, with a soil mixture that is half rich, loamy soil and half sand. It is preferable to plant your purslane seeds in a contained area instead of directly into your garden, because not only is purslane very invasive, but each purslane plant can contain over 240,000 seeds, and those seeds can stay in your soil for more than 40 years.
Plant purslane seeds after the last frost in your area. Purslane plants and flowers are sensitive to frost and cold but thrive in heat.
Sow purslane seeds thinly over the surface of your shallow planter. The seeds can be planted on the surface and do not need to be covered with soil. In fact, purslane seeds may not germinate if planted too deep into the soil.
Keep the purslane seeds watered and the soil moist, particularly during the germination period. Purslane plants can tolerate drought conditions, but because of their shallow root system, they grow better if you keep the soil moist.
Use garden shears to trim off clippings from a purslane plant. It does not matter what length the clippings are.
Lay the purslane clippings on the surface of your shallow planting container. The clippings do not need to be buried in soil, simply laid on the surface.
Keep the soil that your purslane clippings are on very moist until the clippings develop a root system. Then, cut back on your watering, letting the soil dry before watering again. Your purslane clippings will root quickly, within a week to ten days.
Click on images to enlarge
Common purslane, a summer annual broadleaf plant grows rapidly in spring and summer and is an important agricultural weed. It is found throughout California to about 4600 feet (1400 m) and is common in agricultural areas and other disturbed places. Although it thrives under dry conditions, common purslane competes well under irrigated conditions. Plants prefer loose, nutrient-rich, sandy soil. Many regional biotypes are recognized as varieties or subspecies. Common purslane’s distinctive succulent foliage is unlikely to be confused with other weed species. The purslane sawfly, Schizocerella pilicornis, and a leafminer weevil, Hypurus bertrandiperris, are two accidentally introduced biological control agents that have become widespread in California. Where the purselane sawfly has been established, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has rated it as providing excellent control of common purslane populations.
Orchards, vineyards, crop fields, landscaped areas, gardens, roadsides and other disturbed sites.
Cotyledons (seed leaves) are egg shaped to oblong, hairless, succulent, about 1/13 to 1/5 of an inch (2–5 mm) long, and sometimes tinged red. Leaves are stalkless, or nearly so, and are opposite to one another along the stem.
The mature plant grows prostrate to spreading, up to 3-1/3 ft (1 m) in length, and has many succulent branches, starting from the base. Leaves are egg to spatula shaped, succulent, stalkless or have very short stalks, about 1/5 inches to 1-1/5 inches (5–30 mm) long, and sometimes their edges are red-tinged. Leaves are arranged either opposite one another or alternate along the stem.
Flowering takes place from May through September. Single flowers or clusters of two to five, are found at stem tips. The flowers are small, yellow, usually have five petals, and typically open only on hot, sunny days from midmorning to early afternoon.
Fruits consist of almost round to egg-shaped capsules, usually about 1/6 to 1/3 of an inch (4–8 mm) long that open around the middle to release many seeds.
Seeds are tiny, less than 1/25 of an inch (1 mm) in diameter, circular to egg shaped, flattened, and brown to black with a white point of attachment. Numerous seeds are produced.
Reproduces by seed and sometimes by stem fragments.
Related or similar plants
- Unlikely to be confused with other weed species.
- Broadleaf ID illustration
- Calflora’s distribution map
- For agriculture: UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines
- For gardens and landscapes: UC IPM Common Purslane Pest Note
Originally Published by Sandra Mason on 07/26/2003
Is it a weed or a wonderful taste treat? Purslane is cursed and curried all at the same time. For most of us, it comes as an unwelcome guest. Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is probably in your garden right now but not because you invited it to dinner.
Purslane is native to India and Persia and has spread throughout the world as an edible plant and as a weed. Many cultures embrace purslane as a food.
Purslane has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers. They look like baby jade plants. The stems lay flat on the ground as they radiate from a single taproot sometimes forming large mats of leaves. It is closely related to Rose Moss, Portulaca grandiflora, grown as a “not so weedy” ornamental. Check out U of I’s Midwestern Turfgrass Weed Identification website for some great pictures of purslane.
Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.
If you are trying to control purslane the number one rule is don’t let it go to seed. About three weeks after you notice seedlings, the flowers and seeds will be produced. Also plants or plant pieces that are uprooted but not removed can root back into the soil. Again depressing or exciting. Running a tiller through purslane is called purslane multiplication.
Purslane grows just about anywhere from fertile garden soil to the poorest arid soils. A rock driveway is nirvana to purslane. It’s succulent characteristic makes it very drought tolerant. Purslane prefers the fine textured soils of seedbeds as in vegetable gardens or open soil areas in paths. It doesn’t germinate well when seeds are more than 1/2 inch deep. Tilling brings seeds to the surface where they quickly germinate. Mulching will help to control purslane. Purslane seeds germinate best with soil temperatures of 90 degrees so mulching may again help to control it. Since it germinates in high soil temperatures also means it doesn’t appear until June when preemergent herbicides may have lost their effectiveness.
Now if you are in the “if you can’t beat ’em than eat ’em” category, you won’t go hungry this year. There are plenty of purslane plants out there and I’m sure your neighbors would love to share theirs with you. If you are a connoisseur, you can also purchase purslane seeds for the cultivated forms for better flavor and easier harvesting. They tend to grow more upright than the wild types.
With purslane aficionados the preference is in eating fresh young plants, and especially young leaves and tender stem tips. The taste is similar to watercress or spinach. Use purslane in salads or on sandwiches instead of lettuce or pickles. Next time order a ham and purslane on rye. Purslane can also be cooked as a potherb, steamed, stir-fried or pureed. It tends to get a bit slimy if overcooked. It can be substituted for spinach in many recipes. Seeds are also edible.
Before grazing in your yard be sure to wash the purslane thoroughly and make sure it is free of any pesticides. As with any new food, don’t over indulge. For recipes go to http://www.prairielandcsa.org/recipes/purslane.html .
MOST GARDENERS have, to put it lightly, inviolable opinions about which plants belong in their yards.
It often has been remarked that a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place. It has been remarked even more often that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It begs the question: What is a weed?
In modern parlance, the term has a few key characteristics. In addition to being in the wrong place, the “weed” plant also is very common and difficult to eradicate from the garden. Many plants considered weeds are invasive species, meaning that they evolved in one ecosystem and were transplanted, intentionally or accidentally, into a new one. Dropping a species into a new environment gives it distinct advantages. Because it has no naturally occurring pests, diseases or consumers, the plant spreads rapidly and disrupts the balance of its new ecosystem.
While most of us agree that highly invasive species are problematic (I’m looking at you, Scotch broom), not all plants are so easy to categorize. A prized ground cover in my garden might be the bane of my neighbor’s existence, and my neighbor’s shade tree might be covertly destroying my sewer lines.
Of course, not all “weeds” are invasives. Sometimes they are just hardy, common plants that gardeners find little value in. Indeed, the simple fact that a plant is common might be the only strike against it. Or maybe the problem is just that the plant is difficult to get rid of.
Let’s be honest: Horsetails can stake a legitimate claim to our soil, because they set root here millions of years before we did. That doesn’t mean everybody wants them marching across the lawn. Like horsetail, the reputation of common purslane suffers from its prevalence and tenacity. And just like horsetail, the plant might provide more value than it gets credit for.
While purslane sometimes is considered an invasive weed, there is evidence to suggest it has been widely distributed across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America for thousands of years. When and how the plant arrived here might not be of particular concern to the gardener crawling around with knee pads and a hori-hori knife. Instead, the burning question is, “Should it stay, or should it go?”
While I might not be ready to seed common purslane in my garden, I am ready to appreciate and make the most of its presence. The scientific name of the plant, Portulaca oleracea, might seem oddly familiar to vegetable gardeners. It shares an epithet with many popular favorite crops in the Brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.). Believe it or not, the term oleracea comes from Latin and means “vegetable.” To me, this seems like a pretty clear indication that purslane is a useful, edible crop.
The best thing about embracing a plant like purslane is that you don’t have to worry about seeding, watering or fussing about it. Purslane is easy to harvest, tastes great and is generally thought to have a plethora of health benefits.
Purslane is a low-lying annual succulent that produces small yellow flowers. Of course, there are many closely related species that have been cultivated to produce taller stems and showier flowers. These are generally referred to as Portulaca and are widely available at nurseries.
Common purslane and its fancy cousins grow best in full sun and can suffer from root-rot if overwatered during the summer. However, most gardeners will find that they spread quickly and easily without any help.
If you want to stop worrying and love purslane: Harvest the leaves and stems when they are still young and tender. If you harvest regularly throughout the summer, you can reduce flower production and seed distribution. This way, you can help keep its spread in check while cashing in on a free lunch. Or, if you’re behind on your garden maintenance, a free breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Colin McCrate digs plants. Find him at seattleurbanfarmco.com and on Instagram @seattleurbanfarmco.
Common plants and weeds that you didn’t know you could eat
Duckweed might be the future of food. But what other weeds can you eat?
Could a trip to your back garden – far from being merely an outing for the trowl – prove useful in digging up some tasty morsels to eat?
How many of these other plants and weeds did you know you could eat?
Chickweed growing in the wild (Alamy)
Chickweed, otherwise known as Stellaria media, is a wild edible plant, producing flowers throughout the growing season. A cool-season annual, it is often eaten by chickens – hence the name. Chickweed is a community plant, its presence decreasing insect damage to other plants, so you could say that it is caring too.
Its flowers are small, white and star-shaped, and the stems have a thin line of white hair growing in a weave-like pattern.
What’s in it for me?
Not only does it taste nice, but it’s good for you too, packed full of ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, thiamin, zinc, copper and riboflavin. That’s a lot of goodness in one weed.
Where can I find it?
It’s pretty easy to track down: chickweed is one of the most common weeds found in lawns, but it can also be found in waste areas, pastures and in cultivated fields, too.
What can I make with it?
You can eat the leaves, adding them raw to salads and sandwiches. They can be eaten hot too, and are easily tossed into soups and stews. Both the stem and flowers can be used when cooked.
The leaves taste similar to spinach, but with a different texture.
Nettles can be tasty in soup (Alamy)
We all know what the stinging nettle looks (and feels) like – but for some it might come as a surprise that the sharp stingers are edible too.
You’ve all heard of nettle soup, right? Well that’s a thing and you can chow down on some common nettles any time you like.
What’s in it for me?
Nettles have been used for hundreds of years to treat a number of ailments, from painful muscles and joints to eczema, arthritis, gout and anemia.
The edible parts are the leaves, stems and roots. For nicest results, you’re best off picking up some young leaves, but it’s important to remember that whatever age the nettle leaf you pick up is, until it is dried or cooked through, the stinging hairs will still be active – so don’t eat them raw.
Where can I find it?
Almost anywhere, but it prefers a rich soil and so you’re more likely to find it around human settlements. In the later summer months, shadowy glades and tracks will be an excellent source of young plants, which are ideal for eating.
What can I make with it?
Nettles works as a good substitute for spinach, and can be used to make nettle soup and nettle pesto.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, nettle beer can be brewed from the young shoots, and nettle tea can be made from the root to help urinary problems. This tea is rich in iron, and vitamin C, and can help the formation of hemoglobin.
Make polenta with nettles, peas and goat’s cheese:
Purslane growing wild and free (Jonathan Buckley)
Originally from Persia, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) can now be found through much of the temperate world, and has been used for thousands of years in cooking.
What’s in it for me?
It’s good for your heart, with the highest amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fats of any edible plant, or so say researchers at the University of Texas.
It is packed with vitamins E and C, and it is reported that purslane has 10-20 times more melatonin, an antioxidant that may inhibit cancer growth than any other fruit of vegetable yet tested. That seems like a big claim, but if it’s true then purslane needs to be your new edible weed at the table.
Where can I find it?
You can find purslane as a low-sprawling weed in vegetable gardens, at the edges of lawns and sometimes down the gaps in the pavement. With smooth, oar-shaped leaves, it is very recognisable so you should be able to track it down.
What can I make with it?
Purslane can be a great alternative, or addition to, lettuce, with its crispy and chewy leaves and stems. They’re pretty succulent and have a mild lemony taste, so it’s one to look out for at your local farmers’ market. Purslane works in a variety of dishes, from a simple southeast Asian lettuce wrap to stir-fried in with ginger and chili. Think of it as your new lettuce – but better for you.
Make purslane and yogurt salad:
Lamb’s quarter in the wild (Alamy)
Sometimes known as wild spinach, lamb’s quarters is an annual wild plant that sometimes appears to look dusty, due to the white powdery coating on the leaves.
It is another kind and sharing plant, and helps to restore healthy nutrients to the soil.
The leaves are light green on top and one plant alone is capable of producing up to 75,000 seeds.
What’s in it for me?
With an earthy taste to it, some say that it is similar to chard. If you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards and spinach then it’s more than likely you will like lamb’s quarter.
You can eat the leaves, shoots, seeds and flowers, making it a very human-friendly weed indeed. Lamb’s quarters contain a particular amount of oxalic acid, and when eaten raw should be kept to small quantities; cooking removes this acid so you can scoff them all you like after that.
Where can I find it?
A common weed, lamb’s quarters can be found just about anywhere, but is prevelant along roadsides, in gardens, and on lawns.
What can I make with it?
Lamb’s quarter can be mixed in with salads or added to smoothies and juices for something different in your morning routine, and it can be easily added to soups.
You can also use lamb’s quarter as a spinach substitute, and cook with it in pasta dishes – perhaps as a filling for lasagne or ravioli, or for any other dish in which you might otherwise reach for spinach.
Broadleaf plantain growing (Alamy)
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major) is a perennial plant that grows over all from spring to autumn. A good, solid edible plant for overall health, it can be used to treat diarrhea as well as digestive disorders.
The leaves grow in a rosette and have stems with string-like veins that are visable on the leaf. Leaves tend to be hairless and are generally lance-shaped to egg-shaped, ranging in 5-30cm in length.
What’s in it for me?
Packed with nutrients including calcium, and vitamins A, C and K, the entire plant can be eaten. The young leaves work well raw or cooked, but can take time to prepare, as many prefer to remove the fibrous strands before use.
Where can I find it?
Plantago major grows all over areas that have been disturbed by humans – along roadsides, and in lawns and fields, thriving in compacted soils.
What can I make with it?
In order to render the leaves more tender, it is advised to blanch them in boiling water before using them in salads. Once blanched, plantain can be frozen for use in soups and stews. The seeds can be eaten both raw and cooked, or can be ground into a meal and mixed with flour.
To make a healthy herbal tea, the dried leaves can make a tasty drink.
How to add nasturtiums to a salad (Jonathan Buckley)
Known by Winnie the Pooh as ‘mastershalums’, the brightly coloured nasturtiums have been the delight of gardeners and cooks for centuries.
What’s in it for me?
You can eat the nasturtium’s leaves and flowers, making them a beautifully resourceful plant to have in your garden – not just pretty, but useful too.
Where can I find it?
Easily to plant in the garden and perfect for growing with children as they flower quickly, they’re an fun annual and come with a pretty fragrance too.
What can I make with it?
Mix the tasty, spicy leaves into green salads or a classic potato salad for something a little different. They also work as a garnish or as part of a seafood sandwich filling.
Sorrel leaves ready to cook with (PhotoLibrary)
Sheep’s sorrel, or Rumex acetosella, is a common perennial weed, with green, arrowhead-shaped leaves and red-tinted, deeply-ridged stems.
What’s in it for me?
Sorrel contains potassium oxalate which shouldn’t be consumed in excess but is absolutely fine in moderation. Sheep’s sorrel makes a gentle alternative garnish, with a lemony, tangy flavour to the leaves.
Where can I find it?
You are most likely find it in disturbed areas by the road side, and along some stretches of pavement. Sheep’s sorrel likes to take hold in areas with particularly acidic soil, and it may be found in fields with livestock in.
What can I make with it?
You can eat the sheep’s sorrel leaves raw in a salad, or blend them into a tasty summer drinks by whizzing them up in a Nutribullet. The leaves can also be used medicially as a tea to cure intestinal problems.
Portulaca oleracea L.
Common Purslane, Purslane, Moss Rose, Pursley, Little Hogweed, Portulaca Weed, Pigweed, Wild Portulaca, Verdolaga, Red Root
Portulaca oleracea subsp. oleracea, Portulaca neglecta, Portulaca retusa, Portulaca consanguinea, Portulaca fosbergii, Portulaca hortensis, Portulaca intermedia, Portulaca latifolia, Portulaca marginata, Portulaca officinarum, Portulaca olitoria, Portulaca parvifolia, Portulaca pilosa var. marginata, Portulaca retusa, Portulaca sativa, Portulaca suffruticosa, Portulaca sylvestris
Portulaca oleracea is an annual succulent, frequently branching at the base and forming a spreading mat up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall and up to 2 feet (60 cm) across. The stems are round, thick, succulent, and range in color from light green to reddish-brown. The leaves are fleshy, oval to spoon-shaped, and up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. They are usually shiny green, sometimes becoming reddish-purple in bright sunlight. The flowers are yellow and up to 0.25 inches (0.5 cm) in diameter. They open singly at the center of the leaf cluster for only a few hours on sunny mornings. Seeds are formed in a tiny pod, which opens when the seeds are mature.
Photo via flora.nhm-wien.ac.at
It is grown as an annual plant, so it has no USDA hardiness zone.
How to Grow and Care
Portulacas tolerate many kinds of soil but prefer sandy, well-drained soil and love the full sunlight. These plants are excellent for high heat and drought tolerance and will seed and spread themselves very well. Some control methods may be needed to keep Portulacas from becoming invasive to areas where they are not wanted. These wonderful plants do spread easily and very well.
These succulents require no attention at all when growing and flowering. However, you should remove them from the garden before plants have a chance to set seed as they may take over the garden. You do not need to water often for proper Portulaca care. The cylindrical foliage of the plants retains moisture very well. Thus, regular watering is not required. When they are watered, just a light watering will do, as their root zone is very shallow.
The seeds of Portulacas should be sown on the soil surface following the last frost of spring. Ideally, these plants should be grown in a sunny part of the garden. If starting Portulaca indoors, then start about one and a half months in advance.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Portulaca.
Portulaca oleracea has an extensive distribution, from North Africa and Southern Europe through the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent to Malesia and Australasia.
Subspecies and Cultivars
- Portulaca oleracea subsp. sativa
- Portulaca oleracea ‘Balriorg’
- Back to genus Portulaca
- Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus
Photo via plantnet-project.orgPhoto viawikimedia.org
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Purslane sprouts from sidewalk cracks, invades gardens and earns contempt from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which classifies it as a “noxious weed.”
It also happens to be a “superfood” high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and beta carotene, one tasty enough to spread, like the weed it is, to farmers’ markets and fancy restaurants.
“We have all this sitting in our front yard, and we can eat it, and it’s cheaper than salmon,” said Joan Norman, owner of One Straw Farm in White Hall.
This terrestrial source of Omega-3 fatty acids has added appeal at a time when buying fish has become so complicated that consumers have to consult their smart phones for the latest health and environmental bulletins.
Known formally as portulaca oleracea, and informally as little hogweed, purslane is a succulent herb that looks, as one Baltimore chef put it, like a miniature jade plant. A more colorful description can be found in seed catalogs, which note that in Malawi, the name for the fleshy, round-leafed plant translates to “the buttocks of the wife of a chief.”
The moisture-rich leaves are cucumber-crisp, and have a tart, almost lemony tang with a peppery kick. But taste is not the only reason to eat it.
“It’s a miracle plant,” said Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, who discovered while working at the National Institutes of Health that the plant had the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids of any other green plant.
Her research was first reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in the late 1980s, but it has taken time for nutrition awareness and food culture to catch up. At least in the United States. Purslane has been eaten for ages in places like Crete and Uzbekistan.
Early Americans appreciated it, too. Martha Washington had a recipe for pickled “pursland” in the Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, the collection of hand-written family recipes she received as a wedding gift, according to mountvernon.org.
But the plant fell out of culinary fashion here until its recent rediscovery by food-foraging, weed-eating epicures.
“Now you can find purslane in farmers’ markets,” said Simopoulos, who had it served to her in not one, but two, salads at Mourayo, an elegant Greek restaurant in Washington. It was combined with tomatoes and feta in one salad, Romaine and scallions in the other.
“I think anyone who has a vegetable garden this year, the purslane will grow as a weed in it,” she said. “They should not really throw it out. They should eat it.”
The weed is showing up on Baltimore menus as well. Chef-owner Winston Blick of Clementine restaurant in Hamilton uses it in some salads. So does Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano in Little Italy.
“When you bite into it, it bursts,” said Aldo’s owner Sergio Vitale. Vitale grew up eating the weed in his native Calabria, in southern Italy.
But purslane only made it onto plates in the family restaurant in the past few years. They toss the rough-chopped leaves and the tenderest parts of the stem into salads, like the panzanella on the menu for next week’s restaurant week. (In the panzanella, a mixture of purslane, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, olive oil and vinegar and onions are served over crusty bread.)
The purslane’s flavor — Vitale finds it “a bit acrid,” with tannins in the stems making it “almost peppery like arugula” — is not its chief selling point for the restaurateur. He likes the crisp, juicy texture.
When Aldo’s first started adding purslane to salads a few years ago, Vitale said he noticed plates coming back into the kitchen cleaned of all but the mysterious green. He quickly had a purslane education session with the staff — “what is it, where we get it, health properties” — so they could help assure diners that it wasn’t an errant weed.
Aldo’s also had to convince the local farmers that it didn’t belong in the compost heap. “We had to teach the farmer what it was, and he’d pick it for us,” he said.
Norman, the One Straw Farm owner, is also working to spread the word that purslane is worth eating.
“If I can sell my weeds, I’m really making money,” she said.
One Straw offers a popular community-supported agriculture program known as a CSA, through which customers pay for a season’s worth of produce up front and get a weekly allotment of veggies. When purslane shows up in the CSA box, customers are puzzled.
“The first question is, ‘What is it?'” Norman said. “And you say, ‘It’s purslane. … It’s a weed.’ At that point, they say, ‘Is that what I saw on the front sidewalk? I can eat it?'”
Norman’s response to that: “Well, it depends where your dog goes.”
One stumped CSA subscriber recently posted a photo of purslane on the Google group Baltimore Food Makers, asking for help identifying the mystery green.
Hanne Blank, an author and accomplished cook, was among those who piped up to sing purslane’s praises.
She recommended it in dishes ranging from Salade Nicoise (“its texture and taste marry well with the oily/pungent things like olives and anchovies”) to the Mexican pork stew Puerco con Verdolagas (“it does become mucilaginous, but the effect is very like putting okra in gumbo”).
“The only thing to bear in mind with purslane is that you either want it raw/barely cooked through, or else you wanna cook the out of it, probably with an acid along for the ride,” she wrote. “Anything in between is likely to seem unpleasantly slimy to the American palate.”
From July until frost, Jamie Forsythe is surrounded by purslane by day, as manager of the Karzai restaurant group’s Fig Leaf Farm in Howard County, Maryland. He takes some of the stuff with him to his night job, as chef at b restaurant in Bolton Hill.
He likes its “lemony” and “assertive cucumber” flavors, at least before the plant flowers later in the season and gets too tough.
“We’ve used it to finish soups,” he said. “When you get it when it’s small and tender, it’s really great for a salad.”
Not that he’s growing the stuff on purpose at the restaurant farm. It just sprouted around his corn and tomato plants.
“I know someone who tried to cultivate it once and they were never able to get rid of it,” he said. “Like mint.”
For recipes visit Prairieland Community Supported Agriculture’s website at prairielandcsa.org.
ALA is most commonly found in plants and grass-fed meat and eggs. Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, says purslane is one of the richest known plant sources of ALA: It contains 15 times the amount found in most iceberg lettuce.
In addition to ALA, other omega-3s include eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids mostly found in aquatic plants and animals, especially oily fish. Nutritionists now think all forms of omega-3s need to be plentiful in our diets plants such as purslane may be part of the missing link to better nutrition. Ethnobiologists — scientists who study the relation between primitive human societies and the plants in their environment — believe that the plants humans ate long ago provided a greater proportion of nutrients than the plants we consume today. They estimate, for instance, that humans 40,000 to 10,000 years ago consumed an average of 390 milligrams per day of vitamin C from wild plants and fruits. In contrast, the average American today consumes just 88 milligrams of vitamin C per day. One cup of cooked purslane has 25 milligrams (20 percent of the recommended daily intake) of vitamin C.
Purslane is an annual that thrives in rich soil and prefers recently turned soils. Its leaves are smooth, thick and paddle-shaped. Depending on the variety, the leaves may grow from one-half to 2 inches long. Wild purslane grows horizontally and forms flat, circular mats up to 16 inches across. Its round, thick stems radiate from the plant’s center and are often reddish at the base. About mid-July, purslane develops tiny, yellow flowers about a quarter of an inch across that usually open only in full sunlight.
Wild and Cultivated Best Sources of Omega-3 Linolenic Acid
(Grams* per 100-gram serving or approximately a half cup.)
More on Purslane:
Harvesting Purslane for Current and Future Use
Curried Purslane Soup Recipe
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Nichols Garden Nursery
How to Manage Pests
Pests in Gardens and Landscapes
In this Guideline:
Common purslane, Portulaca oleracea.
Seedling of common purslane, Portulaca oleracea.
Infestation of purslane, Portulaca oleracea.
Purslane sawfly on purslane.
Common purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is a member of the Portulacaceae family with more than 120 different species found in that family. It is a weedy summer annual species that is abundant throughout the world, invading vegetable gardens, bare areas, low-maintenance lawns, ornamental plantings, and agricultural areas. It was first identified in the United States in 1672 in Massachusetts. It is particularly well adapted to the warm, moist conditions found in California’s irrigated agricultural and ornamental sites. Common purslane is edible, with a sweet, yet acidlike flavor. An excellent crunchy salad plant, it is said to blend well with hotter-flavored salad herbs. It has been cultivated in India and the Middle East and has been popular in Europe since the Middle Ages. In the United States, common purslane is a minor crop because of its use in ethnic cooking and its reputed health benefits of bioprotective nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids). In Spanish it is known as verdolaga. Other members of the purslane family include moss rose, miner’s lettuce, and redmaids (desert rockpurslane).
IDENTIFICATION AND LIFE CYCLE
Common purslane is a prostrate, succulent annual that often forms a dense mat. The reddish stems originate from a central rooting point, radiating out like spokes of a wheel. The stems vary in length, commonly up to 12 inches. Leaves are stalkless (sessile), oval, smooth, succulent, and shiny, and vary from 1/2 to 2 inches in length. The leaves, although generally arranged opposite, may also occur alternately along the stem, particularly near the base. Small (3/8 inch), five-petaled, yellow flowers are borne singly in leaf axils and open only in sunshine. Seeds are borne in a small pod with a top that comes off like the lid on a cookie jar. Seeds are reddish brown to black, oval, and tiny (about 1/64 to 1/32 inch in diameter). Common purslane is a prolific seeder. A single plant may produce 240,000 seeds, which may germinate even after 5 to 40 years. In late summer, flat mats of mature purslane can be turned over to reveal thousands of seeds on the soil surface.
Common purslane germinates in California from February to March in the southern desert areas to late spring in cooler areas when soil temperatures reach about 60°F. It germinates very near to or at the soil surface in large numbers after an irrigation or rain. Most of the tiny seedlings die, but the survivors grow rapidly and can produce flowers in a few weeks. The fleshy stems of common purslane can remain moist and viable for several days after cultivation and hoeing, and reroot to form “new” plants when gardens or fields are irrigated.
Proper weed identification is imperative to obtain successful control. Identifying purslane is important but it is usually not the only weed presenting a problem and you will want to identify other weeds to find the most effective strategy for control. See the UC IPM Weed Photo Gallery.
Because of its ability to produce large numbers of seeds, common purslane can rapidly colonize any warm, moist site. A few scattered plants in the first year can become an almost solid carpet of purslane the following year. Its ability to reroot after cultivation or hoeing frequently enables it to survive these cultural control practices. Common purslane is low in stature and forms dense mats. These vegetative mats utilize available moisture and nutrients and screen out light to the soil surface, preventing emergence of other seedlings. Common purslane is unsightly, reducing the esthetic value of turf and ornamental plantings. In commercial situations common purslane can limit summer vegetable production and reduce the efficiency of harvesting nut crops, such as almonds and walnuts, from the orchard floor.
The primary method of management for common purslane is prevention. Common purslane is such a prolific seeder that once it has become established it is difficult to control. Avoid bringing common purslane into uninfested areas. Use weed-free planting stock and seed. Clean mowers, planters, and cultivation equipment that have been used in infested areas before allowing them to enter clean areas. Monitor uninfested sites for common purslane seedlings and destroy them before they set new seed. In home landscapes and gardens, this weed is generally managed by cultural means such as hand-weeding and mulching.
Cultivation following irrigation when common purslane seedlings are small can reduce the weed population. However, because common purslane germinates at or near the soil surface, cultivation can bring up a fresh supply of weed seeds from deeper regions of the soil for future germination. Carefully monitor for weed seedlings after each irrigation and cultivate while seedlings are still small. When cultivating or hoeing larger common purslane plants, either remove them or allow plant material to thoroughly dry before irrigation. This will prevent rerooting of the fleshy stem sections. Otherwise, cultivation or hoeing becomes a transplanting operation and little control is achieved. Also, seeds may continue to ripen a week later even after a plant is pulled.
If they screen out all light, mulches can be used to control common purslane in ornamental plantings, orchards, vineyards, vegetable crops, and gardens. To be effective, organic mulches should be at least 3 inches thick. Synthetic mulches (plastic or fabric mulch) which screen out light and provide a physical barrier to seedling development, also work well. Fabric mulches, which are porous and allow flow of water and air to roots, are preferred over plastics. Combinations of synthetic mulches with organic or rock mulches on top are commonly used in ornamental plantings.
Soil solarization, the practice of covering moist soil with a clear plastic sheet for 4 to 6 weeks during the summer months, can kill common purslane and its seed. Solarization is done before gardens and ornamental areas are planted. To be effective it should be done during the summer months of July to August when heat and light intensity are highest. Prepare your beds before solarization. Do not disturb the soil or cultivate after solarization as weed seeds from deeper layers of the soil may be brought to the surface for germination. (See Soil Solarization: A Nonpesticidal Method for Controlling Diseases, Nematodes, and Weeds. )
Purslane sawfly is an insect that feeds and reproduces on common purslane. It eats the leaves of common purslane, leaving the plants low in vigor and with little photosynthetic area. Unfortunately, by the time it develops sufficient numbers to have an impact on the common purslane population, seed development and much of the damage from purslane competition in the garden or crop have already occurred.
Chemical control is generally not necessary for the control of common purslane in the home landscape; it is primarily used in conjunction with cultural methods for commercial situations and should be reserved for use only under unusual circumstances in the home landscape.
There are many herbicides that will control common purslane. Preemergent chemicals control seeds and postemergent chemicals control the growing weeds. A selective herbicide controls only certain weeds while a nonselective herbicide controls all or most weeds.
If preemergent herbicides are to be used, make sure they are present at the soil surface during the time of seedling emergence and have been activated with an irrigation or a shallow incorporation soon after application. Tilling the preemergent herbicides too deeply (2–3 inches) into the soil has resulted in failure to control common purslane. Postemergent herbicides are effective when applied to the seedling stage; if applied too late in the season to mature plants, control is often erratic and seed set may have already occurred.
Common purslane is usually not a problem in healthy, well-established turfgrass. It can be found most commonly in weaker, poorly maintained turfgrass. Therefore, the improvement of cultural practices to obtain healthy, competitive turfgrass is the best method to deal with this weed problem in lawns. However, several herbicides are available for use in turf that control purslane.
The herbicides dithiopyr, pendimethalin, or combinations of benefin and trifluralin or benefin and oryzalin (used in bermudagrass turf only) will control common purslane as preemergent treatments. These products are mostly granular materials and some may be mixed with a turf fertilizer.
Dicamba, MCPP, MSMA, and 2,4-D are effective postemergent herbicides in turfgrass and are available to the home gardener.
The use of a suitable mulch thick enough to limit the light reaching the soil surface can control common purslane in ornamental plantings and may eliminate the need for herbicides. Spot spraying a nonselective postemergent herbicide such as glyphosate can provide good control if care is taken to avoid letting it contact the foliage of desirable plants. Herbicide active ingredients such as oryzalin, pendimethalin, and trifluralin will provide control and are available to the home gardener.
Soil solarization, mulches, and early cultivation of common purslane seedlings can help to control infestations. Preemergents are almost never used in the vegetable garden because of the diversity of different vegetables, chemical residues for months after the application, and chemical registrations on the labels.
Specific herbicide recommendations for commercial orchard crops and vegetable plantings are available online; see the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines.
Important Notes: If you decide to use a chemical you need to be aware of certain precautions.
- Many of the postemergent selective materials are in combinations to control a wider spectrum of weeds, often with three or four chemicals in the combination. Sometimes one or two of the chemicals will not control purslane but are included in the mix to control other weeds. For example, Bayer Advanced All in One spray contains 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba, and MSMA. The MSMA provides no control and the MCPP provide partial control, while the 2,4-D and dicamba will control purslane.
- The granular formulations (postemergent) with fertilizer are applied to a moist lawn so the herbicide is able to adhere to the moist broadleaf weed. Generally these “weed and feed” products are not recommended because the proper time for fertilizing often does not coincide with proper time for weed control.
- There are many different brand names for many of the same chemical active ingredients, and/or variations in combinations of chemicals. Below are some examples:
- Dithiopyr is found in Schultz Supreme Green Crabgrass Preventer with fertilizer, Best Turf Supreme Crabgrass Preventer plus Lawn Fertilizer, and Monterey Crab and Spurge Preventer.
- Trifluralin sold as Trifluralin, Treflan is available only to professionals, or in the nursery as Preen for home-owners.
- Mecoprop (MCPP) is found in Bayer Advance All in One and Ortho Weed B Gon (with other chemicals).
- Glyphosate is sold as Roundup and Remuda.
- Drift on breezy days during application can move the chemical onto desired ornamentals and cause injury.
- Improper weed identification may result in no control or only partial control.
- Calibration of application equipment, especially with the preemergent herbicides, is critical. Too little chemical applied results in poor control, and too much chemical applied may result in injury to the turf or ornamentals.
WARNING ON THE USE OF PESTICIDES
Cros, V. 2007. Good yields of common purslane with a high fatty acid content can be obtained in a peat-based floating system. HortTechnology, 17(1), 14-20.
Mitich, L. W. 1997. Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Weed Science. 11(2):394-397.
Molinar, Richard. 2002. California Master Gardener Handbook. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 3382.
Whatcom County Weeds (PDF), Washington State Noxious Weed Board, Public Works Department.
Whitson, T. D., ed. 2001. Weeds of the West, Jackson: Univ. WY.
Authors: D. W. Cudney, Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside; C. L. Elmore, Vegetable Crops/Weed Science, UC Davis; R. H. Molinar, UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno Co.
Produced by IPM Education and Publications, University of California Statewide IPM Program
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How to Kill Purslane
Purslane is a succulent, creeping weed that can grow almost anywhere. It grows from a single taproot, spreading out its stems in a spoke-like fashion. Purslane spreads through the dissemination of hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant which can live in the soil for 40 years. Once established, purslane is difficult, but not impossible, to kill.
Pull individual purslane plants out of the ground if you do not have an overwhelming infestation. This is easier when the soil is moist. Place the plants in a trash bag and throw them away. Leaving the plants on the ground may lead to re-rooting.
Place a 3-inch layer of mulch over the bare areas of your garden or turf. The seeds will not be able to germinate without the sun. The best mulch to use is synthetic mulch made especially to block sunlight.
Apply a pre-emergent herbicide for crabgrass, which will also kill purslane, in early May to the areas typically affected with purslane. This type of herbicide will stay in the soil and kill the seeds and seedlings in early stages. Look for herbicides with dacthal, balan, betasan, or tupersan as the main ingredient. Follow the application directions on the package.
Try solarization in July and August if your purslane plants return. Water the soil around the purslane deeply, moistening it. Stretch clear plastic over the purslane plants, placing heavy objects such as bricks on the edges to keep the plastic in place. Keep the plastic over the plants for four to six weeks during this hot period. The intense light and heat will kill both the plants and the seeds at the surface.