Ontario Weeds: Purslane

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Leaves
  7. Flowers and Fruit
  8. Habitat
  9. Similar Species
  10. Related Links

Name: Purslane, Portulaca oleracea L.,

Other Names: Portulaca, Pursley, Pusley, Pussley, Wild portulaca, pourpier potager, pourpier gras

Family: Purslane Family (Portulacacae)

General Description: Annual, reproducing only by seed. A low-growing or prostrate plant with succulent reddish stems, thick leaves and small flowers. Stems and leaves flat on the ground or slightly raised, 2-3cm (1in.) high.

Photos and Pictures


Purslane. A. Seedling. B. Plant.

Purslane. A. Seedling. B. Plant.

Stems & Roots: Stems - very fleshy or watery, smooth, reddish-green to purplish-red, repeatedly branched and often forming circular mats 30-60cm (1-2ft) in diameter or larger.

Leaves: Cotyledons (seed leaves) of emerging seedlings 2-5mm (1/12-1/5in.) long, and half or less wide, thick, fleshy and reddish- reddish-green on a bright red stalk; leaves mostly alternate (1 per node) except the first few apparently opposite (2 per node), and those near the tips of branches crowded together; all leaves flat but thick and fleshy, deep green to reddish-green, broadest near the rounded or squared tip and narrowed towards the base, completely hairless.

Flowers & Fruit: Flowers small, 5-10mm (1/5-2/5in.) across, in axils of stem leaves or near the tips of branches, opening only on bright sunny mornings with 5 small, pale yellow petals which soon fall off, 6-10 tiny yellowish stamens and 1 pistil; seedpods nearly spherical, about 5mm (1/5in.) in diameter, opening by a slit that goes all the way around the seedpod just below the middle so the top part comes off as a lid; seeds numerous, flattened, rounded or somewhat kidney-shaped, about 0.6mm (1/40in.) across, black and shiny. Flowers from July to September.

Habitat: Purslane is one of the most common weeds in gardens throughout Ontario, occurring also in row crops, waste areas and edges of driveways but not surviving under heavy shade and thus rarely seen in grainfields, hay fields or pastures. The very fleshy nature of Purslane enables it to continue flowering and ripening seeds for several days after being hoed or uprooted. Though rarely producing roots from the stem, if even a small portion of the root of an uprooted plant touches the soil, it can grow a new root system and become re-established.

Similar Species: Purslane is distinguished from similar prostrate plants by its reddish, fleshy stem with watery juice, its fleshy, thick, greenish leaves without teeth, its small flowers with yellow petals and its small, inconspicuous, spherical seedpods which open with a circular lid, scattering many tiny black seeds. Prostrate pigweed has a tougher stem, thin leaves, and tiny greenish flowers in somewhat spiny clusters in axils of leaves. The prostrate annual spurges have thinner stems and leaves, and all plant parts contain a white milky juice that is never found in Purslane.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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