Purslane, the common name (of obscure derivation) for portulaca oleracea, one of the most common weeds of our gardens, and often abbreviated to "pusley." Portulaca (the ancient Latin name) gives its name to a small family of succulent annual or perennial herbs, the portulacaceoe, closely related to the pink family, from which they are mainly distinguished by their two-sepalled calyx, and the often transversely dehiscent capsule, which opens by the falling away of the upper part as a lid. The common purslane is a prostrate, smooth, annual plant, its fleshy and often reddish stems spreading in all directions, and forming a mat a foot or more across; the alternate or opposite leaves are wedge-shaped or obovate, and half an inch to an inch long; the axillary or terminal flowers sessile; the two-cleft calyx cohering with the ovary below; petals five, yellow, and with the 7 to 12 stamens inserted on the calyx at the point where it becomes free from the ovary; ovary one-celled, with a deeply five- to six-parted style, ripening to a many-seeded capsule, which opens by a lid; the kidney-shaped seeds are shining and handsomely marked with a network. The flowers open only in bright sunshine, usually about 11 o'clock A. M., and remain but a short time.
Purslane has been used as a pot herb from very ancient times, a fact recognized in its specific name, oleracea; and though it is but little used in this country, it is cultivated in French gardens as pourpier, and seeds of the green, golden, and large golden varieties are offered in their catalogues. When grown rapidly in a rich soil, and properly served, it is to many a most acceptable vegetable. In this country it finds a congenial climate, and is everywhere one of the most prominent weeds; it gives but little trouble before hot weather sets in, but grows then with astonishing rapidity; so tenacious of life is it, that it must be entirely removed from the ground or it will go on and perfect its seeds. Pigs are very fond of it. The hairy purslane, P. pilosa, with narrow cylindrical leaves and pink or purple flowers, is found in Florida; and P. retusa, which much resembles the common species, with its leaves notched at the ends, is common west of the Mississippi. - The garden portulacas, probably all to be referred to the South American P. grandiflora, though several different names have been given to them, have cylindrical leaves and very large showy flowers of the most brilliant colors, from white through yellow, orange, and red, to bright purple, and often striped or blotched with two colors; the double ones are very fine, and deserve the name of "portulaca roses" given them by the German florists.
Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea).
The sea purslanes, sesuvium portulacastrum, found along the shores of the southern states, and S. pentandrum, from Long Island southward, have much the habit of the common purslane, but have no petals, though the calyx is purplish inside, and usually numerous stamens. - Black purslane and milk purslane are names given in some parts of the country to euphorbia maculata and E. hypericifolia, which are also common garden weeds, and have a prostrate habit like purslane; they can at once be distinguished from purslane by their copious milky juice. They belong to a dangerously active family, and the term purslane should not be applied to them, as their proper name is spurge. - Belonging to the purslane family are several interesting genera, including Clay-tonia, with two handsome species known in the eastern states as spring beauty, and a dozen or more on the Pacific coast. Calan-drinia is an allied showy genus, some species of which are cultivated in gardens.