COMMON PURSLANE Science Page
DID YOU KNOW?
Common purslane is aweed in gardens andfarm fields throughoutmuch of the world. Butfor hundreds of years,many people have alsoused it as a vegetableand a medicine.
I use commonpurslane tothicken stew.
No one knows for surewhere commonpurslane originallycame from. Manybotanists believe it isnative to thedesert in North Africa.Its fleshy stems andleaves help it to thrivein dry desert soil.
THE COMMON PURSLANE PLANT
The thick red stems grow outfrom a central root. They growalong the ground, forming amat. The stems are smooth,round, and filled with sap.The small yellowflowers open in themorning sun.The seeds are in tinypods. The lids on thepods open when theseeds inside are ripe.
CLASSIFYING COMMON PURSLANE
The flowers of the purslane familymay have several petals, but only 2green sepalsunder thepetals.
In Latin, this means “little door,” which refers tothe door-like opening of the seed pods.
In Latin, thismeans “edible.”
FRIEND . . .
Common purslane canbe eaten raw in saladsor it can be cooked likespinach. It is very highin Omega-3 fatty acidsand vitamins A and C.
I can pullup thispurslaneand use itin a salad...
. . .OR FOE?
Common purslaneplants can quickly takeover a farm field orgarden. Their leavesand stems are full of stored water, so theplants can survive eventhe worst dry periods.Each common purslaneplant can producethousands of seeds.Broken bits of stems orleaves can also takeroot and grow. Within afew weeks of sprouting,a plant can make ripeseeds.
... but I won’t leaveany cut stems onthe ground becausethey can root andgrow.
The thick roundedleaves contain sap.They are usuallygrouped at the endsof branches.
Garden Mosaics is funded by the National Science Foundation Informal Science Education program, and bythe College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.
Common purslaneis an annual.
G A R D E N M O S A I C S
( w w w . g a r d e n m o s a i c s . o r g )