Purslane

Portulaca oleracea is a non-native cousin of Portulaca lutea, which is native to the Hawaiian Islands. It is found near the cistern and path in camp and occurs in several other locations on the island including the East turnaround.

  1. oleracea cotyledons are ovate (oval), often with a faint purple margin (edge) and purple base. Leaves are somewhat mottled in appearance, with a speckling ranging from white to purplish. The true leaves are cuneate to obovate (wedge-shaped to ovate but broader at the tip), nerveless, and fleshy.

Portulaca seeds are shiny obsidian black, pocketed with dimples like a golf ball but irregular (the botanical term is ‘granulate’), mostly spherical but for a small blunt-tipped horn. A spoonful of soil from a Portulaca patch will yield dozens to hundreds of seeds. It is a bit difficult to figure out how such a tiny seed turns into such a large sprout!

Description: Prostrate, usually annual herbs; stems 1-2 dm long, profusely branched. Leaves alternate or subopposite, cuneate to obovate, 10-25 (-40) mm long, 5-15 (-20) mm wide, sessile, with an inconspicuous tuft of hairs ca. 1 mm long in the axil. Flowers 2-6 (-30) in cymose clusters; sepals 3-4 (-8) mm long, keeled; petals (4) 5, yellow, broadly obovate, 3-10 mm long; stamens 7-10 (-15); style (4) 5-branched. Capsules ca. 4 mm long, circumscissile 1/3-1/2 from base. Seeds black, glossy, ca. 0.5-0.6 mm in diameter, the surface granulate, cells of the testa with fine tubercles (Wagner et al., 1999; p. 1072).