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Wildflower, weed, … or groundcover?

Often, the question of “wildflower vs. weed” is a matter of location. I recently decided to test that concept with the native succulent “weed” Portulaca pilosa, a.k.a. pink purslane.

 

Portulaca pilosa - pink purslane

Wildflower, weed,… or groundcover? Portulaca pilosa can tolerate poor soil, full-sun, and drought.

 

Trivia factoid #1 – One nickname for Portulaca pilosa is the “kiss-me-quick flower.”  This is due to its habit of opening its flowers in the morning, but closing them in the afternoon (or on cloudy days.)

Trivia factoid #2 – The word “pilosa” in means “hairy” – a reference to the fuzzy white hairs that grow along the stems.

 

While some people consider Portulaca pilosa a weed, these hardy succulents are actually related to the ornamental Portulaca grandiflora, a.k.a. the “moss rose.” Both species of Portulaca can thrive in well-drained, nutrient-poor soils, and can handle full-sun locations.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…”

 

Earlier this spring, following the lemons/lemonade philosophy, I decided to take advantage of the abundant “volunteer” purslanes sprouting in my yard. I was curious to see whether they could be “re-purposed” as a groundcover for difficult sites, similar to their cultivated ornamental cousin, P. grandiflora – a.k.a. the moss rose.

 

The trial: A sandy, full-sun, non-irrigated “trouble area” was cleared and designated as the “purslane-patch.” Whenever I was weeding the yard, if I encountered a purslane plant, it got re-located to the “purslane-patch.” A few months in, here’s a pic of the progress:

Portulaca plants thriving

Preliminary results: The “rescued” Portulaca plants are forming a low-growing, low-maintenance groundcover.

 

Results and musings:

Thanks in part to a very wet spring, the transplanted purslane plants are thriving, spreading, and blooming like crazy. The stems are knitting together nicely, creating an attractive, low-growing groundcover effect. And aside from a minimal amount of weeding to prevent competition, the area has basically been maintenance-free.

 

This purslane-patch is an “outside-the-box” example of how gardeners can use a plant’s natural adaptations to our advantage to solve difficult landscape issues. Whether using native plants like these Portulaca, or a cultivated ornamental, following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping concept of matching the “right plant, right place” can help you create a thriving, low-maintenance landscape with minimal inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, or surplus irrigation.

(Click to learn the 9 Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping!)

 

Dainty Sulphur butterfly on Phyla nodiflora - a.k.a. frogfruit, turkey tangle fogfruit, match-stick flower.

Another great example of a “weed” with potential landscape benefits – the native Phyla nodiflora – a.k.a. turkey tangle fogfruit, frogfruit, match-stick flower – serves as an important host for a number of butterflies such as this Dainty Sulphur. But that’s another post for another day…

 

Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards

Have you created an innovative, low-maintenance, “water-wise” landscape at your home or business? Each year, The Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards Program recognizes outstanding examples of Florida-Friendly Landscapes from across the Tampa Bay Region. Applications for this year’s competition are being accepted until June 30, 2018. Visit TampaBayWaterWise.org to learn more about the program or to fill out an easy online application.

 

About UF/IFAS Extension:

UF/IFAS Extension serves as a source of non-biased, research-based information for the residents, businesses, and communities of Florida, providing educational materials and programs for adults and youth. We proudly “provide solutions for your life.”

UF/IFAS has local Extension offices throughout the state! Click to find your local office!

 

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