Sea Purslane

Sea Purslane is a slow-growing shrub belonging to the goosefoot family and found in salt marshes and muddy beaches. Its thick, succulent leaves have a crunchy texture and are flavoured by the natural saltiness of the sea.

Atriplex is one of the names the Roman physician Pliny (23–79AD) gave to plants and is derived from the Greek phrase ‘not to flourish’. However, what he meant by assigning this name to sea purslane is uncertain.

Portulacoides seems equally obscure, for it means resembling the purslane plant.

The origin of the common name purslane is a greater mystery still. The English naturalist William Turner (1509/10–1568) called the plant purcellaine and in the Grete Herball of 1516, it is listed as procelayne. 

Scientific Name

Atriplex portulacoides



Botanical Description

The tiny flowers grow in clusters of yellow-green spikes amid downy oval-point leaves and purplish-coloured stems. This shrubby plant creates grey-green foliage.


Native. Perennial. Evergreen.

Habitat and Distribution

Sea purslane prefers salt marshes and muddy shores.

Parts Used for Food

Leaves, seed.

Harvest Time

Right through the year.

Food Uses of Sea Purslane

As a seaside plant, Sea Purslane makes an excellent pickle, much like the commercially used samphire.

The crunchy, salty leaves make a tasty addition to salads, stir-fries or fish dishes.

The plant can be cooked as a vegetable or potherb or boiled and served similarly to French beans.

Nutritional Profile

There is little information available on the nutritional content of Sea Purslane.

Sea Purslane Recipes

Herbal Medicine Uses of Sea Purslane

Sea Purslane gained a reputation in folk medicine as a remedy for female-related complaints such as menstrual problems, uterine disorders.

However, there are few records of its use, and people may have substituted it in favour of more effective plants.

Safety Note

You should thoroughly wash the plant before use. Sea Purslane may best be avoided during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.


Mabey, R. & Blamey, M. (1974) Food for Free. London: Collins.

Sousa, A. I. et al. (2008) Heavy metal accumulation in Halimione portulacoides: intra- and extra-cellular metal binding sites. Chemosphere. [Online] 70 (5), 850–857.

Wyse Jackson, P. (2013) Ireland’s Generous Nature: The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants in Ireland. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden Press.

Leave a comment