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Sesuvium portulacastrum (L.) L.

Syst. nat., ed. 10: 1058 (1759).
Chromosome number
2n = 16, 32, 36, 48
Portulaca portulacastrum L. (1753).
Vernacular names
Seaside purslane, samphire, cenicilla (En). Pourpier de mer, pourpier maritime (Fr). Beldroega da praia (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sesuvium portulacastrum is widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics on saltwater beaches. It occurs along all coasts of Africa.
Sesuvium portulacastrum is occasionally but in many countries eaten as a vegetable, and the leaves have the acidulous flavour of sorrel (Rumex spp. and Oxalis spp.). Because it is very salty, it needs repeated boiling in fresh water. Several animals graze it (sheep, goats, camels) and it is said to be a favourite food of crabs. In Ghana it is burnt to smoke fish. In Senegal the plant is used as a haemostatic and a decoction is considered the best antidote for stings of venomous fish; it should be applied externally for a long time. The leaves are said to be antiscorbutic. Sesuvium portulacastrum is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental and as ground cover to prevent erosion in dune vegetation.
At increasing levels of NaCl in the soil (up to 600 mM), total amino acid and sugar contents of Sesuvium portulacastrum decrease while protein, starch, proline and glycinebetaine contents increase. The insect moulting hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone has been isolated from Sesuvium portulacastrum.
A suberect, prostrate or creeping, glabrous, succulent perennial herb, up to 30 cm tall, with thick stems rooting at the nodes. Leaves opposite, simple, fleshy; blade oblanceolate, 1–6.5 cm ื 0.1–1.5 cm, base gradually narrowing into a petiole, scarious-expanded, stem-clasping and connate with base of opposite leaf, apex rounded, margins entire. Flowers solitary, bisexual, regular, 7–12 mm long; pedicel 3–15 mm long, thickened upwards; tepals 5, persistent in fruit, connate at base into a tube about one third of the length of the lobes, these unequal, triangular, acute, just below the apex each with a fleshy dorsal apiculus 1.5 mm long, green outside, pink to red-purplish inside; stamens many, free, inserted in the mouth of the perianth tube; ovary superior, (2–)3–4-celled, styles (2–)3–4. Fruit a circumscissile capsule with the lid remaining whole, many-seeded. Seeds smooth, black.
Sesuvium comprises about 12 species and is closely related to Cypselea and Trianthema, together thought to link Aizoaceae to Portulacaceae; it is sometimes classified in the latter family.
Sesuvium portulacastrum grows on maritime shores at about high water-level, in saline beach-dunes in the littoral, marshes, lagoons and disturbed locations in coastal areas. It is very salt tolerant and a pioneer sand-colonising plant that grows on the upper beach and seaward slope of the frontal dune or beach ridge. It traps and holds wind-blown sand and tends to form small ridges or mounds. It does not survive complete burial under wind-blown sand. It also grows well in more protected littoral locations and it can be included in dune revegetation programmes. Flowering and fruiting is year round. Each flower opens for only a few hours per day.
Sesuvium portulacastrum can be propagated by seed and by rooted stem cuttings. Plants are preferably planted in well-drained sandy soil, spaced 75–150 cm apart. Sesuvium portulacastrum grows in full sun and tolerates acidic and alkaline soils, having also a high drought tolerance. It is a low-maintenance plant, needing no irrigation or fertilizer and serious diseases or pests are not known.
Genetic resources and breeding
Sesuvium portulacastrum is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Sesuvium portulacastrum is an interesting vegetable, easy to grow, remaining of value in suitable locations. It is an important pioneer species on sandy beaches in the subtropics and tropics, where its mat-forming growth habit promotes embryonic dune formation.
Major references
• Bogle, A.L., 1970. The genera of Molluginaceae and Aizoaceae in the southeastern United States. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 51(4): 431–462.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Jeffrey, C., 1961. Aizoaceae (including Molluginaceae and Tetragoniaceae). In: Hubbard, O.B.E. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 37 pp.
Other references
• Lonard, R.I. & Judd, F.W., 1997. The biological flora of coastal dunes and wetlands: Sesuvium portulacastrum (L.) L. Journal of Coastal Research 13(1): 96–104.
• van den Bergh, M.H., 1993. Minor vegetables. In: Siemonsma, J.S. & Kasem Piluek (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 8. Vegetables. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 280–310.
• Venkatesalu, V., Kumar, R.R. & Chellappan, K.P., 1994. Sodium chloride stress on organic constituents of Sesuvium portulacastrum L., a salt marsh halophyte. Journal of Plant Nutrition 17(10): 1635–1645.
• Venkatesalu, V., Kumar, R.R. & Chellappan, K.P., 1994. Growth and mineral distribution of Sesuvium portulacastrum L., a salt marsh halophyte, under sodium chloride stress. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 25(15–16): 2797–2805.
• P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

• G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
• O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
• C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, R้sidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
• R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
• R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Sesuvium portulacastrum (L.) L. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/L้gumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.