Like the common dandelion, we like to call purslane a “gateway invasive” because it is so common throughout North America and represents an easy first target for novice invasivores.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is an annual succulent plant native to North Africa, the Middle East, and India. It has been present in North America for a long time (possibly even predating Columbus) but its quick growth habit and ability to sprout up in poor soils and disturbed areas makes it a troublesome weed for gardeners and farmers alike. Because it is a succulent plant, it is drought tolerant, so you may even have some in your backyard right now- even if the rest of the garden is dead!
Purslane usually grows in a sprawling manner, creeping along the ground. It has bright green, fleshy leaves that grow to about the size of your thumb nail. The stems tend to be reddish brown in color. Purslane flowers are small, yellow, and short-lived. Purslane only boasts a shallow taproot and puny supporting root system, so it is easily hand-pulled from the ground.
The silver lining of purslane invading your garden is that it is edible. It is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It is popular in traditional Mexican cuisine, and many recipes can already be found online (for example, here). We’ve just collected a bounty while weeding out our own flowerbeds at home, so keep an eye out for our own recipe contribution soon!