P&PDL Picture of the Week for
March 17, 2008

The Succulent Purslane

Glenn Nice, Weed Diagnostician, Department of Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University

Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a member of the Portulacaceae family and I will refer to it as purslane from this point on in this article.  This family has such beauties as the spring beauty (Claytonia spp.) and its western cousins, the pussypaws.  Introduced into the US, its origins are a little shady.  Some accounts have it coming from western Asia, yet others have Europe as its original home.  The use of purslane as a medicinal or food plant may have resulted in wide spread distribution into several geographic regions before an accurate account was being kept [1].  It is considered to be one of the world's worst weeds, an agricultural pest in 45 crops in 81 countries [2].

In Indiana, this annual is often found in cracks in the driveway, sidewalks, and in your lawns, but it also finds its way into our crop production fields.  It is a succulent plant feeling somewhat like rubber when handled.  This succulent nature suggests that it might have had desert origins and it typically a trait that aids in surviving the hot, dry summer months [1].  Purslane is for the most part prostrate and has reddish, fleshy stems.  Its leaves are blunt and round at the ends (3-30 mm long and up to 13 mm wide) and arranged alternate to nearly opposite [3].  Small flowers with five petals can be solitary or in compact clusters terminally or axillary [3]. 

In RR soybean, glyphosate will control purslane at 0.75 lb ae/A when the purslane is three inches in diameter.  Use 1.1 lb ae/A if the purslane is larger than three inches in diameter, but no greater than six.  Glyphosate can also be used in RR corn or before planting.  As the season progresses, coverage of purslane can become more difficult due to its decumbent nature.  In corn, atrazine can also be used to control purslane preemergence or postemergence with oil.  Products containing the active ingredient bentazon have also been reported to be effective on purslane.

On the home front, small infestations are easily pulled.  However, when pulled stems and leaves will disconnect from the plant easily so assure that you have pulled the plant up from its root (center).  Glyphosate can be bought in several products at local home and garden centers.  Be careful not to get glyphosate on desired plants, as it affects several plants.

Reference

1. Mitch, L.W.  1997.  Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea).  Weed Technology 11:394-397

2. LeRoy, G.H., D.L. Plucknett, J.V. Pancho, and J.P. Herberger.  1991.  The Worlds Worst Weeds.  Distribution and Biology.  Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar Florida.  pp. 78-83

3. Stubbendieck, J., M.J. Coffin, and L.M. Landholt.  2003.  Weeds of the Great Plains.  Nebraska Department of Agriculture.  p. 500

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Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service