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Natural Perspective

The Plant Kingdom: Purslane Family (Portulacaceae)

(Last modified: 4 May 2015)
[photo miners lettuce]

The Purslane Family includes several delectable, fleshy, plants. The family's namesake, Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea, not pictured) is one of the best plant sources of the essential fatty acid Linolenic acid. Though it is best known as a common garden weed, this tangy plant would be appreciated by anyone who likes Okra.

[icon miners lettuce] Purslane members are distinctive because they have only two sepals for their five-petalled flowers, as can be seen in this close-up of Miner's Lettuce.

Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is as pretty in the field as it is tasty on the dinner plate. Miners would eat this plant for its Vitamin C content in order to prevent scurvy, although this author is certain that it provides many other nutritional benefits as well.

The small flowers seem to be growing from the center of its cup-shaped leaves, although Botanists assure us that these cups are really two leaves which have completely fused together -- if you look carefully you can see the seams. Indeed, early leaves of this plant seem more fan-shaped than the cup shape of the fused leaves.

The very pretty Redmaid flowers are also part of this family.

Phylum: Angiospermophyta (flowering plants)
Class: Dicotyledoneae (starting with two seed-leaves)
Subclass: Caryophyllidae
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Portulacaceae (Purslane Family)
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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
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Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
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Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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