Polygonum-Portulaca (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Polygonum-Portulaca (Sturtevant, 1919)

Polygonum alpinum All. Polygonaceae.


Southern Europe and northern Asia. This plant is called by the Russians kizlez or kapousta, by the Baschkirs kamouslouk and is eaten.

Polygonum bistorta Linn.


Northern regions. The leaves "are by some boiled in the spring and eaten as greens." Though very astringent and bitter to the taste in a raw state, says Johnson, the root contains an abundance of starch and, after being steeped in water and roasted, becomes edible. A considerable quantity of the root thus prepared is consumed in Russia and Siberia in times of scarcity, as a substitute for bread. In the southern counties of England, the young shoots were formerly in request as an ingredient in herb puddings and as a green vegetable but they are now little used. The root, called ma-shu by the western Eskimos, says Seemann, is an article of food with them and, after being roasted in the ashes, is not unlike a potato, though not so soft and nutritious.

Polygonum multiflorum Thunb.

China and Japan. The roots are used as food.

Polygonum odoratum Lour.

Cochin China. This species, according to Loudon, is cultivated throughout Cochin China as an excellent vegetable for eating with boiled meat and fish.

Polygonum viviparum Linn.


Arctic regions and mountains south to the shore of Lake Superior. Its roots, according to Gmelin, are collected by the Samoyedes and eaten. Lightfoot says the people of Kamchatka and sometimes the Norwegians, when pressed with hunger, feed upon the roots. In Sweden it is called mortog or swinegrass.

Polypodium fragrans.

Polypodiaceae. POLYPODY.

East Siberia. This fern is called serlik by the Bouriates and is used as a substitute for tea.1

Polystichum munitum Kaulf.


The roots of this fern, says Hooker, are roasted on the embers and constitute an article of food for the Indians of the northwest.

Pometia pinnata Forst.


Islands of the Pacific. This species is planted around dwellings for its sweet and edible fruit.

Populus alba Linn.

Salicaceae. WHITE POPLAR.

Northern regions. The inner bark of this species, of P. nigra Linn. and P. tremula Linn. is occasionally used in northern Europe and Asia as a substitute for flour in making bread. The soft, new wool of the poplar, says Dall, is cut fine and mixed with his tobacco by the economical Indian of Alaska.

Porcelia nitidifolia Ruiz et Pav.


Peru. The berries as well as the flowers are eaten by the inhabitants of Peru.

Porphyra laciniata Agardh.


Northern regions. In England, this membranous seaweed is stewed to a pulp and brought to table served with lemon juice. It is a favorite article of food with many persons.

Porphyra vulgaris Agardh.


Northern regions. This seaweed is cultivated in the neighborhood of Tokio, Japan. Branches of oak are placed in the shallow waters of the bay in spring time; on these the laver appears and is collected from October to the following March and is sold as food in the markets.

Portulaca lutea Soland.


Society Islands. This plant is used as a vegetable in the Society Islands and in New Zealand.

Portulaca oleracea Linn.


A native of tropical and subtropical regions but now spread over nearly the whole world. The fact that this plant is recorded as having reached England only in 1582 would seem to indicate its origin as recent in Europe. Unger says it is the andracken of Theophrastus and Dioscorides and is a widely-distributed plant of the Mediterranean region, occurring everywhere and readily entering the loose soil of the gardens. In the thirteenth century, Albertus Magnus does not mention its culture in gardens and apparently refers to the wild form, "the stems extending over the soil." In 1536, Ruellius describes the erect, greenleaved, cultivated form, as well as the wild, procumbent form, and in this he is followed by many of the succeeding botanists. Three varieties are described; the green, the golden and the large-leaved golden. The golden varieties are not mentioned by Bauhin in his Phytopinax, 1596, nor in his Pinax, 1623, but are mentioned as if well known in Le Jardinier Solitaire, 1612. The green variety is figured by nearly all the earlier botanists. The golden has the following synonymy:

  • Pourpier dore. Le Jard. Solit. 378. 1612; Toum. 236. 1719; Vilm. 518. 1883.
  • Red or Golden. Quintyne 199. 1693.
  • Portulaca sativa lutea sive aurea. Ray 1039. 1688.
  • Golden purslane. Ray 1039. 1688; Townsend 19. 1726; Mawe. 1778; Burr 392. 1863.

In England, McIntosh says the young shoots and leaves are used in summer salads and are sometimes used in French and Italian soups and in pickles. This purslane is cultivated in Yemen, sold in bundles at Mocha and, in Burma, is used by the natives for a potherb. In 1605, Champlain says the Indians on the Maine coast brought him "purslane, which grows in large quantities among the Indian corn, and of which they made no more account than of weeds." Cutler, 1785, says it occurs in cornfields and is eaten as a potherb and is esteemed by some as little inferior to asparagus. It was previously mentioned by Josselyn prior to 1670. Purslane has never been much valued in America. In 1819, Cobbett mentions it in his American Gardener, as "a mischievous weed that Frenchmen and pigs eat when they can get nothing else. Both use it in salad, that is to say, raw." Sir Richard Hawkins, at the Island of Saint Anna, off Cape Saint Thomas, found great store "of the hearbe purslane " which was very useful to his scurvy-suffering crew. Purslane is also mentioned by Nieuhoff as cultivated in Brazil in 1647.

Portulaca quadrifida Linn.

Old World tropics. This species is much used as a potherb in India.

Portulaca retusa Engelm.

Western North America. This species is eaten by the Apache Indians.