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Common Purslane

Did You Know?

A few facts:

  • Source of food for humans and livestock 
  • Has medicinal purposes
  • Seeds can remain viable in soil for 20+ years

How to get rid of Common Purslane:

  • Remove entire plant
  • Use mulches in gardens
  • Treat with herbicides

Information by Rakesh Chandran, Ph.D., WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist

Nature’s Weedy Gift?

Common purslane ( Portulaca oleracea) is a ubiquitous weed worldwide with over 40 ecotypes adapted to survive a wide range of conditions. It belongs to the Portulacaceae (purslane) family, many species of which are cultivated as herbs or ornamental bedding plants. Common purslane grows during the hottest months of the year due to its ability to store water while surviving drought-like conditions. Although the exact origin of this weed is unknown, it is thought to have originated in northern Africa or western Asia. It was present in America in pre-Columbian times and in Italy during the Roman Age, where two sub-species were discovered during archaeological excavations. Its exact migratory route is uncertain. Common purslane is considered to be a major weed in more than 50 crops, especially in vegetables such as lettuce, tomato and pepper, and in row crops such as cotton and sugar beet. It is also a common weed in lawns and landscapes.

Common purslane is a weed that is considered to possess many beneficial attributes. It is used widely as a source of food by humans and livestock. The succulent leaves or tender stems can be consumed fresh, boiled as a potherb or pickled. Its leaves and stem have a salty and slightly acidic taste similar to spinach. It has been documented to be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support a healthy heart, beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, and vitamin C. It is also considered to have high levels of antioxidants and to possess anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, in addition to its ability to soothe the skin and to treat wounds. The medicinal value of common purslane is partly attributed to the various phenolic alkaloids it contains. It has also been shown to be an effective remediating plant to drain salts from contaminated soils.

Common Purslane Identification

Common purslane is characterized by red fleshy stems with over 90% water content, succulent oval-shaped glossy leaves and tiny yellow flowers. Although it is considered to be a summer annual, it can regenerate from fragments of its stem. They produce tiny, black, glossy, oval-shaped seeds, about 1 millimeter in size, that can remain viable in the soil for 20 to 40 years. Seed germination occurs when the soil temperature exceeds 25°C with an optimal temperature requirement of 30°C. Common purslane can produce viable seeds as early as three weeks after emergence, with each plant capable of producing over 200,000 seeds.

Up close look at common purslane seed pod.

Close-up of common purslane leaves.

Common purslane showing roots.

Controls for Common Purslane

Mechanical methods, such as hoeing or cultivation, can often be futile or even aggravate the problem due to the ability of common purslane fragments to regenerate. Pulling out the entire plant and flaming or composting them can sometimes be effective. Mulches, such as thick (6-mil) black plastic or straw over newspaper, are effective to control this weed in backyard gardens.

Large populations may be controlled by application of herbicides specific to labelled crops. In cool-season lawns, the herbicide mesotrione (Tenacity) can prevent common purslane from germinating when applied to spring-seeded turf. In landscapes, pre-emergent herbicides, such as isoxaben (Gallery, Snapshot) or indaziflam (Marengo), control this weed. In lawns, commonly used selective herbicides containing the active ingredients 2,4-D, dicamba, mecoprop and carfentrazone effectively control this weed, especially during early stages of growth.

Author:  Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist 
Last Reviewed: August 2020

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by West Virginia University Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension agent.