Portulaca oleracea

Common Purslane

Botanical description: Portulaca oleracea can easily be spotted as one of a few succulent plants that inhabit urban environments. Fleshy oval leaves are mostly found in clusters at the ends of prostrate branches and at stem joints. It forms a spreading mat that hugs the ground, no higher than six inches tall. It is commonly found in small pavement cracks, taking advantage of the extra heat this niche provides. From July through September, yellow flowers bloom, open for only a few hours on sunny mornings. Despite this bashful flowering, Portulaca produces large amounts of seed, held by little, capped pods. While preferring nutrient rich, sandy soils, all parts of purslane, including its leaves, can store enough moisture to sustain a plant through drought, enabling the plant to survive otherwise inhospitable site conditions. Purslane is commonly eaten in Europe, Mexico and the Middle East as a delicious leafy green, rich in dietary fiber and vitamins. The succulent leaves and tender stems have a sour and salty taste and are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. They can be used as salad, cooked as spinach, in soup and as a garnish. It is not uncommon to find the plant incorporated into salads at trendy, cosmopolitan restaurants.