Portulaca pilosa

hairy portulaca


Portulaca pilosa

L. 1753

pronounced: por-tew-LAK-uh pill-OH-suh

(Portulacaceae — the portulaca family)


common names: hairy portulaca, kiss-me-quick

Portulaca was the Roman name for purslane, derived from portare, to carry, and lac, milk, referring to the milky sap. Pilosa is also from the Latin: pilosus, hairy.

This little plant is a native of the Americas, from the southern United States as far south as Brazil. It has been introduced into many other countries, together with its close cousins Portulaca bicolor and Portulaca oleracea. Portulaca pilosa and Portulaca oleracea are present along the whole Queensland coast, while Portulaca bicolor is not found south of Bundaberg. The photographs were taken in Cockle Bay, on the edge of the salt flats, and the plant is often found in such conditions, in areas where the salt content of the soil is high.

Portulaca pilosa is a small prostrate plant with narrow succulent leaves to about 2 cm long, usually alternate; they are petiolate to subsessile, succulent, terete to slightly flattened, with a bluish green tint, and acute. The stems grow from a taproot, multiple from the base, branching, erect to ascending, succulent, terete, up to more than 8 cm long, and glabrous – the hairs are in the leaf axils. These hairs are white, and up to 3 mm long.

The pink to purple flowers, which are surrounded by the hairs, are clustered in the leaf axils. The flowers have 5 petals and 10 stamens in a ring at the edge of the receptacle. There are 2 sepals, greenish or with a purplish tint, acute, entire, broadly ovate to orbicular, about 2 mm long and broad. The fruit is a circumscissile capsule.

As with all succulents, the appearance of the Portulaca species can vary, depending on the amount of water that is available. Given good growing conditions, the plant can form fairly large mats. In cultivation, it does well as a rock garden plant. It is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

I was rather puzzled by the ‘Kiss-me-quick’ common name, until I discovered that Portulaca pilosa extract is used in the cosmetic industry.


Photographs taken at Cockle Bay 2010, Picnic Bay 2013
Page last updated 19th March 2019