Purslane is considered to be a medicinal herb and is a rich source of Vitamin C. In addition, it contains alpha-linolenic acid which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a succulent plant that will grow outward in a circle shape close to the ground.
This introduced annual plant forms a spreading mat up to 15cm tall, branching frequently at the base. The stems are round, thick, and succulent. They range in color from light green to reddish brown. The leaves are alternate or nearly opposite and sessile along the stems. Like the stems, the leaves are rather thick and succulent. They are usually shiny green, sometimes becoming reddish purple in bright sunlight. There is a tendency for the leaves to cluster toward the apex of the stems.
Some of the health benefits of purslane include its ability to help lose weight, boost heart health, help in the proper development of children, treat certain gastrointestinal diseases, prevent certain cancers, protect the skin, boost vision, strengthen the immune system, build strong bones, and increase circulation.
Although this may come as a surprise, purslane may be the most important plant that hasn’t made its way into your life. The main reason for this is that for many years, purslane has been considered little more than an annoying weed.
In fact, it is scientifically known as an annual succulent and is widely eaten throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In the United States, it is usually ignored or pulled up and treated like any other invasive greenery in gardens and yards. The scientific name of purslane is Portulaca oleracea, and it has a slightly sour and salty taste that makes it an interesting addition to the palate. The entire plant, including the leaves, stem, flowers, and seeds, are edible and have been used for thousands of years in different variations.
The yellow flowers occur singly or in small terminal clusters. When fully open, each flower is about 0.6cm across, consisting of 5 yellow petals. These flowers have floppy petals that open up for a few hours during bright sunny mornings. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer through the early fall and lasts about 1-2 months. Each flower is replaced by a seed capsule that splits open around the middle to release the numerous small seeds. Each seed is dark brown or black, somewhat flattened, and nearly round or kidney-shaped.
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