Halophyte #2: Shoreline purslane

Shoreline purslane (Sesuvium portalucastrum), a.k.a, sea purslane, is a perennial halophyte that grows on the mosquito control dikes at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA).  You also will find it growing on the front of beach dunes where it helps to stabilize shifting sands …

Its photosynthetic stems are thick and fleshy.  They vary in color from yellowish green to reddish and tend to be redder in full sun.

The stems can be quite long as you can see in the photo of shoreline purslane cascading over the trunk of a dead Australian pine (Casuarina sp.) at Blowing Rocks Preserve.  Usually it grows in mounds from 3 – 8″ tall.

Its opposite leaves vary from 1/4 to 2″ in length and have an acuminate (pointed) leaf tip..  Shoreline purslane flowers throughout the year, and its flowers can be pink, light purple, or even white.  The flowers and pointed tips differentiate shoreline purslane from samphire (Blutaparon vermiculare), a.k.a silvered, an annual halophyte that grows in the same sort of places.

The flowers are star-shaped and petal-less. What appear to be petals are really sepals and are green underneath, as well as on the pointed tips at the ends of the sepals.  Butterflies and other pollinators nectar on the flowers.

Shoreline purslane is member of the ice plant family, Aizoaceae.  Its genus name, Sesuvium, reportedly refers to that land of Sesuvii inhabited by a Gallic tribe.  Its species name, portuclacastrum, is derived from portulaca (meaning purslane) and castrum (resembling).

Shoreline purslane can be used as a drought-tolerant groundcover in a sunny landscape.  Unfortunately, in our yard it was quickly and repeatedly feasted upon by rats.  Humans consume this plant as a pre-salted pot herb.

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