Portulaca oleracea (Common Purslane)

Plant Info
Also known as: Little Hogweed
Genus:Portulaca
Family:Portulacaceae (Purslane)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:Europe, Asia
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; disturbed soils; roadsides, fields, waste places, gravel pits, gardens
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:1 to 2 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] Flowers are single or in small clusters at the tips of branching stems, 1/8 to ¼ inch across, with 4 to 6 (typically 5) yellow petals notched at the tip and 6 to 20 yellow stamens in the center. Behind the flower are 2 or 4 green sepals that are smooth or with a few inconspicuous hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves and stems] Leaves are alternate, though may be crowded to appear nearly opposite or whorled, especially near branch tips. Leaves are succulent, 3/8 to 2/3 inch long, up to ½ inch wide, broadest above the middle, mostly tapering at the base, toothless, hairless except for a few inconspicuous hairs in the axils, green or red-tinged especially around the edges. Stems are stout, rubbery, smooth, typically reddish, many branched and sprawling out to 20 inches, creating dense mats.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an oval to urn-shaped capsule up to about 1/3 inch long, containing many tiny, black seeds. The capsule splits along a seam that spans the circumference in about the middle of the capsule, the top coming off like a lid.

Notes:

Primarily an urban and agricultural weed in Minnesota, Common Purslane is noted as one of the 10 most noxious weeds worldwide, growing in a wide range of conditions throughout temperate and tropical regions around the globe. Its origins are a bit hazy, however. While generally considered native to western Asia and/or Europe and an introduction to North America from European settlers, there is some evidence that it may have been here pre-settlement. In any case it is not considered native to Minnesota. Common Purslane also has the distinction of having the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants of any leafy-green plant analyzed to-date, and is cultivated for its nutritional value. It is most easily distinguished from other species by the succulent leaves, stout (usually reddish) stems, sprawling habit, yellow flowers and capsules with detaching lids. It is a somewhat variable species, with numerous subspecies suggested based on stamen, seed and leaf characteristics, but these are not recognized in Minnesota. In addition, while not mentioned in our standard references, it has been our observation from local populations that finding it in flower with the yellow blooms may be more difficult than you might think. It is apparently not so uncommon for a plant to have all or mostly cleistogamous (petal-less, self-pollinating) flowers.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk in Dakota and Hennepin counties.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Chris - Blue Earth County
on: 2017-05-19 08:16:09

For several years I have been seeing moss roses (portulaca) with rounded leaves like this sold in nurseries. I choose not to buy it because it looks too much like purslane leaves. Is there any way to know that plants I buy from a nursery won't become invasive?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-05-19 08:35:25

Chris, the simple answer is: no. You cannot predict how exotics will behave. There have even been many cases where they did not initially exhibit invasive behaviors, but did after many years of cultivation. I believe buckthorn was such a species.

Posted by: Claudia - Blue Earth County
on: 2017-07-31 09:29:31

Chris, the reason why it looks like purslane is because it's the same thing. If you do have some, pick it later in the day for a better flavor. The leaves are extremely rich in vitamin A and E. Toss them in a tomato and mozzarella salad or cook them to add to a soup.

Posted by: L
on: 2017-08-10 17:05:19

Whoa, that comment by Claudia is potentially dangerous and I suspect incorrect. It's also a prime illustration of the vagueness and confusion resulting when we us 'common' plant names instead of scientific ones.

If Chris meant by "'moss rose'-portulaca" the species Portulaca grandiflora, then she was not in fact speaking of the same plant from the original post, an entirely different species, Portulaca oleracea.

Any time edibility comes up in a conversation about plants I think we need to be vigilant about the exact plants we're speaking of, and/or the words we use in responses. Of course, all I did was google it and I saw that both species are safe to eat, apparently, but god forbid that wasn't the case. Respectfully, L.

Posted by: Alycia - Kanabec County
on: 2018-07-09 20:12:13

I don't remember noticing it in years past, but common purslane has been all over my garden this year. I'd like to learn more about how it can be used in the kitchen.

Posted by: Gretchen - Scott County
on: 2020-05-07 07:14:13

Why are there so few counties on the distribution map for this weedy plant? For example, I live in Scott county, and this is all over my garden, but it is not listed as being present in Scott county. I will say though, that I don’t recall ever seeing the yellow flowers (maybe because I’m always pulling it out!) I will be observant this year to see if I notice any flowers.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-07 07:50:56

Gretchen, the distribution maps reflect what has been previously recorded by the DNR, MN herbariums, and other reliable observations. They are rarely complete, especially for weeds. The best way to improve these records is to collect a specimen and submit it to the Bell Herbarium. Then it becomes part of the official record.

Posted by: Ellen S. - Hennepin County suburbs
on: 2020-07-31 22:37:10

This comes up in our gardan all the time. I've heard it tastes great, but I must disagree. I found it quite bitter.

Posted by: Brett W - Big Stone County
on: 2020-08-03 20:00:49

Wasn't sure what this was as I was taking photos at Big Stone NWR on one of the outcrops. Quite a bit of them on it...spent way too much time on them in retrospect. Anyone need macro flower shots of these?

Posted by: Debby Paulson - Eagle Lake
on: 2020-08-11 12:29:05

Does anyone know how this spreads? I keep pulling it up and it keeps coming back!!!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-12 06:07:33

Debby, it easily spreads by seed. If you're not diligent about weeding out new growth you'll have a seed bank to contend with for some years.

Posted by: Ellen S - Hennepin County suburbs
on: 2020-09-30 18:45:57

Randomly, this year the purslane tastes much better than before. Now I just eat it raw, on the spot, whenever I catch it invading our yard. So far there haven't been enough to bother putting on salad, which is a good thing.

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