The Portulacaceae is a relatively small family (20 genera, 500 species worldwide) that is cosmopolitan in distribution but having two centers of diversity, one in western North America and the Andes of South America, the other in southern Africa. Most members of the Portulacaceae are herbaceous, but there are a few shrubs in the family (but not around here). The leaves are simple and may be basal, alternate, or opposite. Some species have stipules, others do not. If stipules are present, they may be scarious or modified into tufts of hairs. The inflorescence may consist of a solitary flower or several flowers. The flowers are radially symmetric and have separate sepals and petals. In most genera, their most distinctive feature is the number of sepals, 2, but Lewisia may have as many as 9 sepals. The sepals are usually persistent, in contrast to some other families. The corolla usually has 4-6 petals but may have as few as 2 or as many as 18. They are distinct or basally connected. The stamens are usually equal in number to the petals and opposite them, but there are sometimes fewer and sometimes more. The gynoecium consists of a single, united pistil with 2-3 (occasionally 9) carpels, as is generally evident from the number of style branches. The ovary is superior and has a single cell. The fruit is usually a capsule. The seeds are smooth and shiny with a large, coiled embryo. Economic Uses: A food source for North American Plains Indians and a common bedding plant, also used in rock gardens.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Purslane Family
FLOWERS WITH 5 PETALS. STEM LEAVES 1 PAIR OR JOINED
Claytonia Springbeauty Annual or perennial, delicate, fleshy herbs, which are hairless.
Flowers white to pinkish, or yellow, with 5 petals, 2 sepals, and 5 stamens.
Leaves entire, hairless, opposite, as 1 pair on stem, sometimes also basal.
FLOWERS WITH USUALLY MORE THAN 5 PETALS
Lewisia Bitterroot Perennial herbs, generally growing from a short, thick, branched taproot.
Flowers with 2-8 sepals, 4-18 variously colored petals, and 5-many stamens.
Leaves simple, entire or not, generally arranged in a basal rosette.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Purslane family: