Weeds – The Problem With Purslane

Michelle RobertsGardening


Purslane is the bane of a gardener’s existence.  It is a weed you don’t want to see sprouting in your beds.   Those who have purslane are very familiar with it because once you get it – you’ve always got it – or so it seems.

My first experience with purslane was about 25 years ago when it entered my garden beds through the irrigation water.  I was very ignorant of the amazing propagation properties of purslane.  Thinking it was just a regular weed, we hoed it up.   In about a week we found just as many soft, succulent purslane weeds growing as we had before.  After numerous weeks of hoeing up the purslane,  I was confused as to why the weed was coming up all through the bed.  It seemed to have a life of its own.  Before long, and much to my dismay, it was all through the garden.

Purslane has the ability to root through any part of the plant.  Perhaps its because it is a succulent and carries around its own watering system, it can withstand being hoed up and left to die on the top of the soil.  Die – it seldom does.  None too soon, it has rooted again!  After much discussion with other gardeners, researching the eternal weed and being told that even a leaf left on the soil will root;  I realized that all the hoeing we had done was exactly the wrong thing to do.
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How To Get Rid Of It

There are only a few ways I have been able to successfully rid myself of purslane  once it establishes itself, and that is to pull it out by hand.  Yep. No easy way there – you just have to pull it out root and all before it goes to seed.  Don’t put it in your compost pile though, or you will see it again in great abundance the next year.  Leave it lying on a surface where it cannot root – like a sidewalk or roadway – until it is crispy and dry. 

Weed-PurslaneRound-up kills purslane fairly well too.  However, using Round-up in my garden beds is not an option.  Another way I have successfully overcome this invasive weed is to cover the bed with plastic raising the temperature of the soil high enough to kill the weed and its ability to root.  It will also kill lots of other things in the soil too.  Some of those things you might not want dead.  So it is always a dilemma. 

The last suggestion I have for overcoming purslane is to load your bed with compost that is completely weed free.  This method has worked very well.  Its just a little pricey if you have a large garden.  If you load compost,  don’t till or cultivate the soil.  You’ll just turn the purslane back to the top.

How is purslane introduced into your garden?  Unfortunately, purslane travels far and wide in manures, some compost, irrigation water, wind, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was spread by the rain.  It is that prolific.
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Purslane – Is It Good For Anything?

Now that I have totally turned you against this obnoxiously invasive weed,  I am going to tell you the rest of the story about purslane and actually sing its praises.

Surprisingly, purslane  is an herbaceous leafy vegetable that is higher in omega -3 fatty acids (a-linoleic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Now that is truly amazing.  You don’t need to buy that fish oil supplement if you have purslane in your garden beds!  

Purslane is also rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is one of the highest sources of vitamin A among all green leafy vegetables providing 44% of RDA.

It is also a rich source of vitamin C and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. 

Purslane also has anti-oxidant and anti-mutagenic properties.

Weed-PurslanePurslane is commonly eaten in Europe as an addition to salads and in America it has begun to attract the attention of chefs in high end restaurants.  Stir fried and mixed with other greens is a favorite among Asians. 

So, the next time you’re out weeding your garden and come across purslane, harvest it.  Wash the leaves and stems in clean warm water and spin or air them dry.  Purslane can be refrigerated for 3-4 days.  Add it to green drinks, use in salads, steam, stew, or gently sautee.

The problem with purslane in the garden is its incredible ability to propagate or replant itself in all the wrong places. Just as I pull volunteer tomato plants out of the bean row, I don’t like purslane growing everywhere to the point of choking out the plants that belong in the row.  

However, I have a completely different perspective about purslane after learning of its virtues.   While I don’t believe I will ever give purslane its own place in the garden, I do a good bit of harvesting as I weed along and then enjoy the benefits of a highly nutritious plant.
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