Species Name
Portulaca spp. (quadrifida, oleracea)


Local Name(s)
Marayita (Konsogna); Muqaza (Arigna); Durqalle (Mallegna); Churqale (Gamogna), Maragude (Wolayetgna)

General description
An annual succulent herb (weed) with prostrate and many-branched stems forming a dense mat. Leaves are sessile, simple, small, thick, fleshy and red in color. They are arranged spirally or opposite. In fact, there are three different species (based on the color of their leaves and stems) in the visited areas. The plant is known as a noxious weed growing abundantly on farm fields, roadsides and wastelands covering the ground like a mat (see picture below). It is difficult to uproot by hand pulling as the plant tenaciously sticks to the ground and is easily cut in to pieces that could develop in to an intact plant. It is tolerant to desiccation and has a tendency to re-grow after uprooting. 

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
Whole plant (leaves and stem) is collected, boiled and consumed in Konso. Nevertheless, in Bako-Gazar (Jinka) areas unlike in Konso, only leaves and tender parts of the stem are consumed and only in severe food shortage periods. It is also sold on market to generate some little income. Farmers reported that the plant is delicious but due to social status implications they are neglecting it in normal times. Farmers in Konso consider Portulaca sp as a typical famine food involving social status considerations. Even though it tastes good and features apparently many advantages and positive characteristics, it is classified as 'poor people's food that 'rich' families do not even consider ever having to eat. The plant is used as a salad and soup plant in some European countries.

Nutritional value
Both P. oleracea and quadrifida have a high vitamin E conte
nt. The leaves are relatively rich in vitamin A and C, especially prior to the flowering stage. The plant has a very high water content of about 92%. Calcium content is high with 331mg/g of the edible portion. In Europe there exist improved erect cultivars that are cultivated and consumed in France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Usually grows in the mid- and lowlands particularly on disturbed/cultivated fields (300 - 1,700m). Central, Western and Chercher highlands, and in the northeast, the south and southwest of Ethiopia.Otherwise the plant is widespread in most warm countries and even cultivated in few sub-tropical countries.

Propagation method(s) & management 
Vegetative propagation by cuttings (shoots & rooted stem parts). The species is collected from the wild and protected or cultivated by local people because it is regarded as a noxious weed where it occurs that can easily overgrow other crops once cultivated in a crop field.

Sample location(s)
(1) Segen River, on-farm in mid- and highlands of Konso Special Woreda; (2) Bako-Gazer Woreda (South Omo); (3) Lowland areas of North Omo 

Farmers complain that it is a difficult weed to control it in that a tiny cutting of the plant invades an area very shortly and because it grows even under moisture stress conditions. Used as fodder especially for cows and camels. Portulaca species used to be important for its medicinal value and is presently a well-recognized health food and is included in the WHO's list of most-used medicinal plants. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is used to treat a range of disorders.

1 Parts of the following description have been taken from Stroud A, Parker C, 1989: p.204/205; Maundu et al., 1999: p.193; Katende et al., 1999: p.358/359; Schippers R R, 2000: p.139/140.

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Marayita3.jpg (170228 bytes)
In front, mat of P. quadrifida in Konso Special Wereda, near Segen River

MarayitavarMukasa.jpg (65980 bytes)
P. oleracea (Konso)

Marayita2.jpg (127291 bytes)
P. quadrifida (Konso)