How To Identify Common Purslane

Tiny Yellow Succulent Wildflower

This common and difficult to eradicate garden weed is in the purslane, or portulacaceae, family.  It is also known as pusley and verdolaga.  The species featured in this article is common purslane and is a widespread weed throughout the United States and southern Canada.  This annual is a long-lived survivor, with a tiny but mighty yellow flower.  Purslane will continue to produce seeds AFTER you pull it out of the ground!

Though purslane is considered an invasive weed in North America, this plant IS edible, tasty, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and has several medicinal uses.  If you’re trying to get rid of this plant, you are definitely in for a battle.  Your best bet is to pull it (frequently) and eat it.  (Get Dirty Wormy’s free Southwest Purslane Salad by clicking here.)

Stay tuned for the Purslane series of posts including recipes, medicinal uses, and harvest instructions.  If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to Subscribe to Dirty Wormy’s FREE monthly newsletter and get notifications of new articles directly to your inbox.  If you’re already subscribed, I’d like to thank you for being a DW reader!

Identification

Succulent ground-cover that is low-growing with a “creeping” nature.  Occasionally found slightly upright, up to 6” high.

Identify Purslane

Purslane Flower Size Perspective

the size of the flower is only a fraction of a dime

Flowers
Tiny and yellow with 5 petals, single or in small clusters.
1/4” wide, located at ends of stems or in leaf axil.
It takes about 30 minutes for the buds to open once and blooms in full sun.  The buds begin the process of opening before full sun actually meets the flower.
The flowers produce edible seeds, that will continue to form after being pulled out of the ground.  In fact, purslane can “throw” it’s seeds to other areas of land or your garden.

this bud is just beginning to emerge

this bud is just beginning to emerge

Wild Succulent and Weed

Wild Common Purslane

Leaves
Fleshy, succulent, spatula-shaped leaves with a luster or sheen.
Leaves can reach up to 2 feet long and about 1 1/2” wide.
Alternate and opposite.
If you touch the leaves, you’ll notice a fleshy feeling that is characteristic of succulents.  It helps them store water in arid environments.

Stem
Smooth stem with a slight “luster” or sheen.
Bronze-green color, but often turns to red, especially in cooler weather.

Season

June – September or November.
Late spring through fall.

Habitat

Areas with disturbed soil such as GARDENS and abandoned lots.
Open areas and fields.
Purslane loves sandy soil and is often found in the southwestern desert.

Range

All over the USA!
Southern Canada.
Elevations of 7,000 feet or lower.
Native to Middle East and Africa.
Believed to have been introduced to North America prior to the arrival of Europeans.
Now found through-out most of the world; it needs only 2 months of weather without snow!

Other Types of Purslane

There are several species of purslane, some wild and some cultivated.  One of the wild variety is called Desert Purslane, or Silk-cotton Purslane, which is also edible.  It’s leaves are more hot-dog shaped than spatula shaped. 🙂  Moss rose is a popular cultivated form of purslane, although it has the potential to spread and become weedy.

Caution – Lookalikes

Purslane does not have any super close look-alikes, however some people have mistaken spurge for purslane.  Spurge grows in the same conditions, often with purslane, and is poisonous.  If the plant you found has hairy stems or produces a MILKY SAP after you cut it, then you need to discard it.  If the sap gets on your skin, be sure to thoroughly wash it off and avoid putting your fingers in your eyes.

I highly recommend reading Dirty Wormy’s top tips on safe foraging before attempting to harvest the plant.


 

Sources

Below is a listing of the books I used to gather some of the information in this post.  (There’s just no replacement for field experience!) I highly recommend each one of them and find myself using them over and over again.  Click on the image for a larger view, description, and customer reviews on Amazon.  If you decide to purchase one of these books, I will make a small commission for the time I spent creating this post.  If you have questions about the books, please take a look at the reviews or feel free to ask me.  Thank you!

 


 

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