Common Weed Discovered To Be a “Super Plant”

Agriculture Drought Climate Change Concept

Scientists may come up with new strategies to engineer crops like corn to help endure prolonged drought by better understanding the novel plant metabolic pathway in the plant. 

The weed could also hold the key to drought-resistant crops.

In a world troubled by climate change, a common weed provides crucial hints about how to develop drought-resistant crops.

Purslane, also known as Portulaca oleracea, combines two different metabolic pathways to produce a unique sort of photosynthesis that allows the plant to withstand drought while remaining extremely productive, according to Yale University scientists. The researchers recently published their findings in the journal Science Advances.

“This is a very rare combination of traits and has created a kind of ‘super plant’ — one that could be potentially useful in endeavors such as crop engineering,” said Yale’s Erika Edwards, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the paper.

Plants have developed a diverse set of processes to enhance photosynthesis, the process by which green plants utilize sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water. Corn and sugarcane, for example, evolved C4 photosynthesis, which allows the plant to stay productive at high temperatures. Succulents, such as cacti and agaves, have another kind of photosynthesis known as CAM photosynthesis, which allows them to live in deserts and other dry regions. C4 and CAM have different functions, yet they both use the same biochemical pathway to act as “add-ons” to conventional photosynthesis.

Purslane is unique in that it exhibits both of these evolutionary adaptations, allowing it to be both highly productive and drought tolerant, an unusual combination for a plant. Most scientists assumed that C4 and CAM operated independently inside purslane leaves.

But the Yale team, led by co-corresponding authors and postdoctoral scholars Jose Moreno-Villena and Haoran Zhou, conducted a spatial analysis of gene expression within the leaves of purslane and found that C4 and CAM activity is totally integrated. They operate in the same cells, with products of CAM reactions being processed by the C4 pathway. This system provides unusual levels of protection for a C4 plant in times of drought.

The researchers also built metabolic flux models that predicted the emergence of an integrated C4+CAM system that mirrors their experimental results.

Understanding this novel metabolic pathway could help scientists devise new ways to engineer crops such as corn to help withstand prolonged drought, the authors say.

“In terms of engineering a CAM cycle into a C4 crop, such as maize, there is still a lot of work to do before that could become a reality,” said Edwards. “But what we’ve shown is that the two pathways can be efficiently integrated and share products. C4 and CAM are more compatible than we had thought, which leads us to suspect that there are many more C4+CAM species out there, waiting to be discovered.”

Reference: “Spatial resolution of an integrated C4+CAM photosynthetic metabolism” by Jose J. Moreno-Villena, Haoran Zhou, Ian S. Gilman, S. Lori Tausta, C. Y. Maurice Cheung and Erika J. Edwards, 5 August 2022, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn2349

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

45 Comments on "Common Weed Discovered To Be a “Super Plant”"

  1. Purslane grows everywhere, why would you use a photo of corn?!

  2. Purslane is a medicinal salad green …. Hardly a weed

  3. Yes, purslane is a very valuable herb. Why not cultivate it as a food plant by its self? Like we herbalists have done for centuries. Why is the first impulse to screw around with it?? Popularize it and we will all eat the better for it!

  4. Purslane is not unique in having both types of photosynthesis. The common “Christmas Plant” has both types as well, with C4 in the leaves and CAM in the stalk.

  5. Earlier this summer I was reading that purslane is used as a leafy vegetable and most of the world except for the United States. So I went out into my garden where the weed grows, took some in the house and washed it and tried it straight, no salt pepper or anything. It tasted good but the slight mustard sort of twang. I have got lots of it, so I’m thinking next year I’m going to start incorporating it into salads and such like during the season.

  6. Not even one photo of purslane shows up for this article! Good thing I spent a lot of time controlling its spread throughout my family’s garden. Pretty plant!

  7. NOT an image of purslane. All you had to do was Google it.

  8. The caption of the photo suggests corn can be modified based on the research outlined in the article, hence the photo of corn. Yes the author/editor should have included a photo of the “weed” mentioned throughout since that was the predominant subject of the research..

  9. They lie because western medicine, big pharma etc don’t want healthy,safe and abundant food that’s good for you. They want everyone sick to control and make money from. This has been the case for at least 200 years . A few jerks ruin it for everyone.

  10. Purslane is one of those plants that we are taught is a weed. It’s actually very nutritious and delicious , you can incorporate it in salads and use it as a thickener for soups and stews. If you find it in your garden, eat it!

  11. Lauren Broderick | October 19, 2022 at 9:17 am | Reply

    The posted picture is not purslane. Please provide both the scientific name and a corrected picture? The article’s message may be lost due to confusing information.

  12. All the great information in this article, and the comments only focus on the choice of picture and some weird comment about trying to change purslane instead of what the article is mostly about… trying to improve other crops, like corn. P.S. The mystery of the plant of topic (maintained by the photo)is part of the reason most of us decided to read the article. A picture of purslane loses half of the know-it-all’s in the comments….right?🤔

  13. Judith K Maupin | October 19, 2022 at 4:10 pm | Reply

    I now plant it .it sorta taste like lettuce. I put it on toasted cheese.

  14. “IT’S CORN!”

  15. Professor finds out there is a world outside, to his shock he sees plants that grown everywhere, very fast and comes back in the blink of an eye. Learns other carbon life forms call it “weed”. Decides it’s a strong plant that that is specially strong….

  16. Why not study chic peas Garbanzo beans are drought hardy. Also a high protein food source. They could be grown in arid Africa.

  17. Discovered purslane yesterday. Awesome Food/Medicine. Yes, free & healthy is a threat to Big Agro-Food/Pharma/Medical/Gov’t-Lobby Kickbacks-Subsidies-Mass Control.

  18. Purslane is the only thing I leave growing around the base of my plants in my garden. It pops up everywhere and I weed wall the grass and junk out and it thrives around the base of my plants and the organic amendments I make for a win win with my other plants. Then the bonus purslane of course. Stuff grows great here in Texas.

  19. Been eating purslane for years. Supply a pic for reference.

  20. Anything that grows under the sun and moon should not be regulated, by gov policies. Medicinal properties in plants should not he prohibited from native humans, to ingest/consume/administer for the purposes of health. Our God given right.

  21. Sorry one typo in previous post I submitted

  22. Purslane does have some side effects it says when u look it up it can cause kidney stones it says I don’t know if it’s true but that in its self is enough for me to not eat it often but to each their own

  23. Merrilyn Wasson | October 21, 2022 at 10:33 am | Reply

    Fascinated by this information. I have not heard of purslane, unsurprisingly as I live and work in Australia, which is both drought and flood prone. We are searching for resilient crops, so purslane is interesting. Perhaps it has other names. Thanks for the report.

  24. Merrilyn Wasson | October 21, 2022 at 10:35 am | Reply

    Fascinated by this information. I have not heard of purslane, surprisingly as I live and work in Australia, which is both drought and flood prone. We are searching for resilient crops, so purslane is interesting. Perhaps it has other names.

  25. I see some commented without reading. It says the uniqueness is that both aspects occur in the same cell.
    Why not just encourage more purslane in our diets. It is called verdolaga in Spanish, and it is widely included in the diets of many cultures. There are garden varieties that grow upright and produce more prolific leaves. It’s quite good.

  26. Not only that, it has omega-3 fatty acids.

  27. Nettle too, dandelion, as a child we used to go into the fields and woods to get all this stuff. Some of the plants we ate right after we picked them.

  28. York Somerville | October 22, 2022 at 12:50 am | Reply

    If purslane has all this amazing nutritional properties why not grown it along with other vegetables. Use it as food and its ability to hold water, and till in each season to add nutrition to the soil?
    It is also a beautiful potted plant, for the home. Maybe something so easy to grow could change hunger for millions.

  29. Vengopaul Naidoo | October 22, 2022 at 5:06 am | Reply

    How about a Pic of thus plant

  30. Hybrid corn with ocean plants for all year round sea watered desert corn crops, Calif. ocean water lawns no fires, etc, ocean river with ocean fish in what used to be dry, desal as t farms, steam distillers at kitchen sink, don’t out salt in your water or swimming pool, put it on the roads

    And hey, maybe officers armed and hired to protect school children that won’t go in(but even said if their child was in there then they would have definitely gone in) should be here to military standards in an act of war for an Act of Cowardice. Are they just there for the donuts?

    How returning vets to defend your schools, it costs the same to print welfare, unemployment, etc as it does a good job with a paycheck

    Also, a school could have a drone with a 500 round capacity that works on geo-fi.

    It’s not accessable by the internet, the network doesn’t even exist. The drone knows it’s location to the layout of the school/campus. The power for the system is on a battery backup with generator locked in a rooftop cage.

    Two people have access to device, one is in locked office at all times. In event of shooting, drone goes live. Camera 1 at the door is fish rewound to last motion segments. One second later, camera 1 shows still frame of shooter enter. Military vet, Dean, clicks on shooter. Drone flies out of office at 60 mph, flies upstairs and takes out shooter, drone might land and grip at carpeting, or suction cup to glass or smooth flooring for accuracy and recoil control

    System costs 50k, a teacher makes 85

  31. Purslane: rich in omega 3’s!

  32. This isn’t exactly only a weed. Mexicans eat this. We call it verdalugas. I’m not sure if other Hispanic culutures eat it but Mexicans do for sure.

  33. Aaaaaah yes. The CORN PLANT much super food. I came here thinking “wtf is corn a weed?” Then I seen the common name “also known as” the real name, the proper name of the plant that’s not even shown in the picture. A plant the journalist could easily get a picture of just by walking outside. Journalism is dead, journalists don’t exist anymore they’re all just “educated” and yet they continue to push out dogsh*t articles without doing even the most basic research or having even the simplest understanding of what they’re talking about. They’re hired as somebody with a degree rather than somebody will the skill and knowledge to talk about what they’re reporting. The degree is totally 100% pointless when you make basic mistakes that anybody with a clue picks up on immediately. They’re predatory, they’re spreading misinformation and they just should not have a job. Just because you go to school for something does not make you good at it, it does not make you intelligent, and it does not mean you should have a job in your field of study. You’re somebody who doesn’t know what they want in life so they’re just working until they figure it out. Writing a$$ articles with the soul purpose of generating clicks and ad income. That’s not an income that comes with true gratification. That’s an income where you’re going to realize you’ve been a fraud one day then sink into a hole and give up. And you should. For giving bad information and not doing your job. By the way your job is you give the basic information you somehow got wrong. Yeah this was long but every time I seen an article like this I get angry for everyone who doesn’t know but will now act like they know.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. The educational system in America doesn’t turn out thinkers turns out Palm pilots and parrots useful idiots that if they pound the information into long enough might just remember it for no other purpose than to have proven that they can answer something by wrote. Good little doggy here’s your treat.

  34. I wonder if grafting other plants onto Purslane root system take.

  35. I didn’t like the taste at all. Then I read the other comments and figured I was just eating weeds after all. Looked like the picture. Can’t say for sure. It’s all getting blurry now.

  36. Native Americas have eaten Purslane in Spanish “Verdolagas” sin precolonial time, in the south if mexico is a plant that is eaten daily in soups or in a raw. Its also used for medicinal purposes and the taste is delicious

  37. As many others have mentioned, Purslane is a “weed” only to the uninformed, bland-palated, or monoculturalists. Perpetuating monoculture harms our planet and future. Please update your terminology.

  38. I call purslane “fairy pickles”
    They gotta eat too. Great to munch on during a hike!

  39. I use it as ground cover in the garden. Very tasty in salads and helps the soil retain moisture

  40. I believe that purslane has grown wild for a long time on our farm
    Indiantown realize how delicious it is until.this past year. Perhaps it will be a multipurpose herb. I just hope that BIG Pharm doesn’t destroy purslane through greed !! They are killing us !!!!!

  41. Purslane is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids.
    It is relatively high in sodium for those watching their sodium intake.
    Delicious steamed, then added to a saute with onions, garlic, mushrooms in olive oil as a side dish…

  42. The way the mind tends to work in the states is that if you can’t classify something as useful then it simy is not useful.and it also has The misfortune of being in the way of something that is deemed useful it becomes a pest. And therefore it needs to be eradicated. This mindset is repeated and played out again and again and again in American culture. If something is not immediately beneficial to you it is therefore immediately detrimental and to be done away with. The various mutations of this thinking in life destroying thought process is played out and milked for all its worth so those who do know better and hold the invisible reins of monetary slave wage manipulation can ring every last little ounce of sweat out of the fools whose toilet so foolishly for them

  43. You lost so much credibility with that picture. There are only two types of plants: monocots and dicots. The picture is one, the subject of the article is another. Should I unsubcribe?

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