A rather small family, mostly American; herbs, usually with thick, succulent leaves and stems, with flowers opening only in sunlight. They usually have only two sepals, but the petals number from two to five or more; the stamens are sometimes numerous, but when they are of the same number as the petals they are opposite them; the one-celled ovary is superior, becoming a many-seeded capsule. Pusley, or Purslane, is one of the commonest garden weeds; everybody knows how difficult it is to keep the spreading rosettes out of gravel walks, and we are all familiar with the gaudy, ephemeral flowers of the cultivated Portulaca. The Purslane-tree, or Spek-boom, of South Africa is often the principal food of elephants and its foliage gives the characteristic coloring to the landscape.
There are several kinds of Montia, closely related to Claytonia, mostly natives of North America, rather succulent plants, very smooth and often with a "bloom." The flowers are white or pinkish, with two sepals; the five petals, equal or somewhat unequal, separate or more or less united at base; the stamens five or three; the style branches three; the capsule with three valves and one to three, shiny, black seeds, which when ripe are shot out of the capsule by the elastic closing of the valves.