The genus Portulaca, commonly known as purslane or pigweed, belongs to the flowering plant family Portulacaceae. They are a prostrate succulent, usually with tuberous roots. The leaves are arranged spirally and the flowers have no stalks. The seed capsule is a small cup which opens at the top that contain numerous tiny seeds.

Found growing in the warm temperate regions and the tropics, they are also found in the arid Central Australia region.

Aboriginal people and the early explorers used some of the Portulaca plants as a vegetable.

The genus Portulaca comprises over forty species, that include Portulaca intraterranea (commonly known as Buttercup Pigweed) and Portulaca oleracea (also known as Munyeroo – being a succulent plant whose seeds and leaves are used for food).

P. intraterranea differs from P. oleracea by the following characters:

  • when in flower, has 3-4 flowered heads (compared to 2-30 for P. oleracea)
  • it significantly larger petals (10-17 mm long, compared to 4-7 mm for P. oleracea)
  • the petals twice as long as the sepals (compared to P. oleracea which are scarsely longer than the sepals)
  • has greater number of stamens (more than 20 for P. intraterranea, compared to less than 20 for P. oleracea)
  • P. intraterranea generally has a stouter growth habit (compared with the sprawling and spreading habit for P. oleracea)

Source: Portulaca intraterranea – A “Desert Gem”, by Blogger Grey Gum

Check out our Flora index for the Portulaca intraterranea.



Both species P. intraterranea and P. oleracea are often found in moist and disturbed areas. They have been used medicinally and as a vegetable. Aboriginal people used the plant extensively, that included grinding the seeds for flour and to make nutritious cakes. The taproot was also eaten. The early pioneers and explorers also used the plant as a vegetable (both raw and cooked).


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Order: Caryophyllales
  • Family: Portulacaceae
  • Genus: Portulaca

Footnote & References

  1. Portulaca oleracea, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulaca_oleracea (last visited Jan. 6, 2021).
  2. Portulaca intraterranea – A “Desert Gem”, by Blogger Grey Gum, 1 February 2013, http://australianportulaca.blogspot.com/2013/02/portulaca-intraterranea-desert-gem.html