pronounced: por-tew-lak-AY-see-eye

the portulaca family

Portulaca is the name the Romans gave to the purslane, derived from portare, to carry, and lac, milk, referring to the milky sap. It is difficult to know how best to describe this family, as its size varies from only one genus, Portulaca, to anything up to 20 genera, depending on which system of classification one follows. The latest revision (the APG III system of 2009) has the family containing just Portulaca, but this has not yet been universally adopted. Whichever system of classification one adopts, these are succulent herbs, with entire leaves. The flowers are bisexual, with 2 distinct or basally connate sepals and mostly 4 – 6 distinct or basally connate petals. The stamens and petals are isomerous, opposite, and sometimes adnate, or the stamens may number 2 – 4 times as many as the petals. There is a single compound pistil with a branched style. The fruit is a capsule.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2014