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Sesuvium portulacastrum

leaf Main Plant Information

Genus

Sesuvium

Species

portulacastrum

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻĀkulikuli

Hawaiian Names

  • Akulikuli

Common Names

  • Sea purslane
  • Sea-purslane
  • Seaside purslane
  • Shoreline sea-purslane
  • Shoreline seapurslane

Synonyms

  • Portulaca portulacastrum
  • Trianthema portulacastrum var. hillebrandii

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status

Indigenous

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Spreading

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Herbaceous, Short, Less than 1

Mature Size, Width

ʻĀkuikuli spreads from 1 and 4 feet or more in width.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Erosion Control
  • Ground Cover
  • Water Features

Additional Landscape Use Information

One of the most salt-tolerant of all coastal plants, ʻākulikuli is an excellent ground cover for beach areas, saline soils, xeric landscaping, and in and around water features.

A nice container plant that should be given full sun and regular watering. [1]

Plant Produces Flowers

Yes

leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Light Purple
  • Pink
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

ʻĀkulikuli has small purple, pinkish, or white flowers.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine
  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

The small succulent leaves range from about 1/4 to just over 2 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green
  • Red

Additional Leaf Color Information

Generally leaves are medium green and turn red or yellow with age. Those grown in open or full sun areas usually have redder leaves than do shaded plants.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

This prostrate groundcover is prone to slug and snail attacks.

leaf Growth Requirements

Fertilizer

If using ʻākulikuli on land follow a low fertilzing regiment, but this is not necessary for plants in water features. An application slow release fertilizer with minor elements every six months. Foliar feeding with a water-soluble or an organic fertilizer (e.g. kelp or fish emulsion) at one-third to one-fourth the recommended strength monthly has proved beneficial. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

Prune ʻākulikuli to keep confined to growing areas.

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

Once ʻākulikuli is established, watering only in times of prolonged drought is required. However, this wonderful groundcover will grow very happily in moist or wet conditions and can even grow directly in water.

Soil must be well drained

No

Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Additional Lighting Information

Full sun is optimal but tolerates some shading for part of the day.

Spacing Information

Space ʻākulikuli 6 and 12 inches apart. The plants will grow together forming a nice groundcover.

Tolerances

  • Waterlogged Soil
  • Drought
  • Brackish Water
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Foot Traffic
  • Heat

Soils

  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral

Limitations

Does tolerant some foot traffic. But like most plants, including turfgrasses, constant foot traffic will eventually cause irreparable damage.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Kahoʻolawe
  • Hawaiʻi
  • Northwest Islands

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)

Additional Habitat Information

ʻĀkulikuli naturally grows on sunny, windy sandy beaches and coastal coralline areas. This is a pantropic plant.

In the Hawaiian Islands, ʻākulikuli is found on all the main islands and in the Northwest Islands on Midway Atoll (Pihemanu), Pearl & Hermes Atoll (Holoikauaua), Lisianski (Papaʻāpoho), Laysan (Kauō), and Necker (Mokumanamana).

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Sesuvium is a genus of eight species belonging to Aizoaceae (Ice Plant or Fig-marigold family). Sesuvium portulacastrum is the only species native to the Hawaiian Islands.

Etymology

The generic name Sesuvium refers to the land of Sesuvii, a Gallic (Gaul) tribe.

The specific epithet portulacastrum is derived from Portulaca, purslane, and castrum, resembling, in reference to the likeness to plants of the genus Portulaca.

Background Information

This succulent plant is a natural feature in Hawaiian wetlands, providing habitat for invertebrates used as food by native waterbirds.

"Seaside purslane" is one of the few plants that were listed as an emergency food during World War II in a  manual called “Emergency Food Plants and Poisonous Plants of the Islands of the Pacific” by the War Department.  The manual states that “the purpose of this manual is to aid the individual who becomes separated from his unit…so that this individual can live off the land.” It then briefly identifies the plant and how to prepare it. [3]

Modern Use

All fleshy parts are said to be edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. [2,4] The leaves have a slight salty taste and seems to hold its saltiness even when not grown in a seaside environment. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

ʻĀkulikuli was the plant of choice for cleaning the stagnant, murky waters in the Ala Wai Canal (Waikīkī) on Oʻahu. Patented platforms of these plants were placed in the canal and the roots helped filter and clear the water of toxins and other unwanted materials.

The flowers can be used in making a beautiful lei but are difficult to make because of requiring a large volume of flowers. [Rick Barboza, Hui Kū Maoli Ola]

ʻAkulikuli (Sea Purslane) Use Outside of Hawaiʻi:

In The Philippines it is called dampalit (Tagalog) and is eaten usually as atsarang dampalit (picked sea purslane).

Additional References

[1] "Container Gardening in Hawaii" by Janice Crowl, page 52.

[2] "Hawaiian Coastal Plants and Scenic Shorelines" by Mark David Merlin, page 41.

[3] “Emergency Food Plants and Poisonous Plants of the Islands of the Pacific” by the War Department (April 15, 1943), page 54.

[4] http://www.caske2000.org/survival/beachplants.htm [Accessed 8/20/11]

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