Purslane is a weed that many gardeners are familiar with. It is often well-known as a common and nutritious herb and vegetable. However, the same characteristics that make it a useful and healthy plant can also be a curse. The purslane weed has taken over numerous lawns, gardens, flowerbeds, and other areas in America. It spreads rapidly and can be a pain to remove.
The following article will help you learn how to identify purslane as well as what steps you should take if you find this weed growing in your yard or garden, so that you can get rid of it successfully.
What is Purslane Exactly?
The scientific name for purslane is Portulaca oleracea. It is also called common purslane, duckweed, little hogweed, and pursley. It is a succulent plant that is believed to be native to India and Persia, but it has been found in most areas of the world since ancient times.
Purslane seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 3150 B.C., which means that they were in use not only in Egypt but also in the Middle East thousands of years ago. In fact, a clay pot dating back to 4000 B.C. that once belonged to Egyptian King Tutankhamen included purslane seeds.
Purslane has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for at least 2000 years, and people from all over the world have names for purslane and recipes in which they use it.
Although purslane is very common, it can still be difficult to identify if you are not familiar with where it grows, how it spreads, and its appearance.
Where and How Purslane Grows
The leaves and stems of this weed are succulent in nature, which means that they hold water inside their stems. Because of this ability to store water, and its taproot and fibrous secondary roots, purslane is able to grow during dry conditions when other plants are unable to do so.
It does very well in poor soil due to the fact it prefers soil that is dry and nutrient-deficient. It has spread worldwide because it is so adaptable to different conditions.
Purslane thrives in the summertime when many other plants wither. It can grow flat along the ground or form a vine that crawls and climbs over and under objects in its way. The plant is typically very low growing – it forms small mats on the ground that are hard to get rid of without success if left unchecked for too long.
Purslane spreads via seeds as well as stem fragments which root at the nodes on the ground if they fall below soil level.
How To Identify Purslane
The most simple way to identify purslane is by its thick red or green stems that branch out prostrate along the ground. The stem is smooth, and leaves are often described as oblong, oval, or spoon-shaped, and they are clustered at the stem joints or ends.
Most purslane plants grow very flat on the ground so they blend in with the soil and it can be difficult to notice them.
It has small yellow flowers the bloom at the end of each stem. Depending on rainfall, these flowers can appear at any time during the year. The flowers of purslane have five petals and are very small, often 1/4 of an inch wide.
How To Eliminate Purslane From Your Lawn
So, now that you can identify purslane by sight as well as know where and how it grows, you can set yourself on how to get rid of it.
The good news about purslane is that it does not reproduce by seed very easily. It may take years for a single purslane plant to create thousands of seeds, which means if you get rid of it quickly enough, you can stop the spread quite effectively.
It is best to remove purslane plants with your hands before they go to seed, when the weed is very young. You should place the scraps in a garbage bag and throw them away so that they don’t have the opportunity to break off and re-root themselves.
Although this might sound like an easy way of getting rid of purslane, it will not be very effective if you do not get rid of all the fragments of roots and stems. Other ways to remove purslane include both chemical and organic methods.
Before you use an herbicide, you should try to remove all of the purslane you can by pulling it out. Then, you can spray the purslane plant with an herbicide. Any 2,4-D herbicide will be effective against purslane, for example the Southern Ag Crossbow Specialty Weed & Brush Herbicide. Be sure to read the directions carefully and follow them when you use an herbicide.
To get rid of any new weed that sprouts later on, re-treat them with a pre-emergent herbicide containing glyphosate.
One organic method of killing purslane is to repeatedly cut the weed off at ground level. This will prevent it from being able to spread via stem fragments or seeds, and eventually it will die.
You can also spray purslane with a vinegar solution to destroy the plant cell membranes so that they cannot take in water or nutrients anymore. Purslane plants are most vulnerable to the vinegar sprays when they are about an inch high or smaller. A good store-bought organic vinegar-based solution is the Doctor Kirchner Natural Weed & Grass Killer.
Another organic method is to pour boiling water directly onto purslane plants. Because purslane can grow very flat to the ground, one quick pour of boiling water will do the trick.
How to Prevent Purslane From Growing
Purslane is particularly hard to rid yourself of for good. It has very strong staying power. So, to prevent purslane from coming back, you should always keep an eye out for any sprouts or new purslane plants, particularly in the springtime.
Mulch around desirable plants with black plastic to block sunlight from reaching the ground. Purslane can grow under mulch without being noticed until it is too late. Mowing your lawn frequently and not allowing bark chips and grass clippings to accumulate around your garden also prevents purslane from growing.
Additionally, keeping a healthy and vibrant lawn will help keep purslane at bay because it won’t be able to compete with all of the other plants and grasses for vital sunlight and nutrients.
Purslane is a pesky weed, one that can be found in your garden, lawn, and flower beds, and can be difficult to get rid of. However, you should be able to get rid of it if you know how it grows and what you can do about it. After pulling up all of the purslane you can, it’s best dealt with using a chemical herbicide method, but organic methods are often effective as well. Don’t let this annoying plant ruin your perfect lawn!