Portulaca oleracea (weed)

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Portulaca oleracea (click on image to enlarge it)
Author(s): Otto Wilhelm Thomé
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Portulaca oleracea (weed) L. - (common purslane)

This species is a common annual weed in many regions around the world. It can multiply rapidly and form dense mats, especially after rains. Affected crops include maize, cotton, soybean or trees in orchards. Yield losses might reach 20-40%. On the other hand, the weed can be eaten as a salad and also has medicinal properties. It may be further grown as an ornamental.

A single plant can produce more than 200,000 seeds per year, which disperse by wind, water or vehicles. The seeds usually germinate immediately after maturity, but can also stay dormant in the soil for 5 to 40 years. Infestations can develop quickly due to the extensive seed production and re-growth from stem sections. A field with a few plants might be completely covered with the weed in the coming year.

Control can be difficult once the weed has established in an area. Herbicides are effective before the growing season (pre-emergent chemicals ) or against young plants before seeds are produced. Cultural methods include uprooting, mulching and preventing the seeds from spreading with farm equipment.

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Portulak
• English: common purslane
little hogweed
• Español: verdolaga común
• Français: pourpier maraîcher

The plant grows to a height of 10-30 cm and has a long taproot. The leaves are short, thick and round without a stalk, 1-3 cm long. The stems are fleshy and reddish. The bright yellow flowers are found at the end of the stems or in leaf axils, sometimes in groups of 2 or 3. They are about 6 mm wide with 5 petals and can self-pollinate. Fruits are small and elongated capsules, 3-4 mm long, with around 10 tiny dark brown or black curved seeds per capsule, ½-1 mm in diameter.