By Kat Yares, Garden Guides Contributor
Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is a common weed in most of North America except for the Pacific Northwest. The plant, which resembles a Jade plant, has thick, milky leaves and a long taproot. The leaves are alternate, with a center cluster where the stem forms. Stems are generally red in color and branch out allowing the plant to form a mat that can be almost a foot in diameter.
The yellow flower has 5 petals that form singularly on the stem ends or on the leaf axis. Purslane flowers from May to September and reproduces itself by seed or from stem fragments.
Purslane, when young, is edible and is often used in salads or cooked, like greens, as a vegetable. More and more often, purslane can be found for sale in organic and farmers markets.
Purslane prefers full sun and well drained, fertile soil. Purslane can survive and thrive during a short drought period, as it loves warmer temperatures. Purslane seed can survive several years in the ground before germination.
Cultivation and Care
Purslane can be cultivated for edible greens by planting in a designated area. The plant loves fertile soil and adding compost to the area will assure a good crop. Water the plants weekly for juicy greens. Harvest the leaves when young, before flowers begin to appear.
Weed Control Techniques
* The simplest method of purslane weed control is by pulling the plants while young. Like many broadleaf plants, purslane puts out a taproot that as the plant matures, makes older plants difficult to pull. At the mature state, individual plants will need a shovel or spade to remove them completely from the garden.
* Purslane plants that have been dug up should be allowed to dry in the sun and then composted for a year before using as organic matter in the garden.
* The use of a hoe to break up the plant may have some effect, but since purslane can reproduce itself from stem pieces it is best to remove the entire plant or break the plant before the stems begin to form.
* Any post-emergence broadleaf herbicide can be used on purslane in the early stages of the plant. After the plant has formed stems and flowers, it is best to mow the plant before applying chemical herbicides.
* Organic herbicides include acetic acid and clove oil and are used the same way as chemical herbicides.
* In the fall, purslane can be tilled under, but will probably reemerge in the spring.