Ode to Portulaca
Fleshy annuals, colors of the rainbow
Show faces serene, sparkling and steadfast
As they grow and gleam.
Each petal diminutive but stately
Holds firm in sunshine and droughts…
This annual, succulent, flowering plant is native to South America, ranging from Argentina and Uruguay through southern Brazil. It found there on the hot dry plains. It is an escape in some areas of Europe. In 1828 American botanist W.J. Hooker embarked on a trip to the Rio Desaguardero in Bolivia, South America, there he was the first to describe this plant.
Its cousin the common Purslane has been grown for centuries for use as a potherb, but the Rose Moss or Mexican Rose has oxalates in the stems and leaves which cause issues on consumption. If properly prepared the oxalates effects (tingling and burning sensations in the mouth and throat) can be negated. The seeds, although very small, can be ground and added to soups or even cereals.
The ASPCA reports that these plants are toxic to cats, dogs and horses causing muscle weakness, depression, and diarrhea. The soluble calcium oxalates are the culprit here also!
In herbal medicine the entire plant is depurative (promoting cleansing). It has been used in the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and swelling with pain of the pharynx. The fresh leaves can render a juice that has been utilized in the treatment of snake and insect bites, burns, scalds and eczema.
In the language of flowers the Moss Rose means “confession of love”.