Purslane-leaved aizoon (Aizoon canariense)

Aizoon canariense in flower
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Purslane-leaved aizoon fact file

Purslane-leaved aizoon description

GenusAizoon (1)

A woody-stemmed plant, the purslane-leaved aizoon (Aizoon canariense) has characteristic zig-zagging branches which radiate from the centre of the plant in a star shape (3). This species is an annual or a perennial herb (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) which grows by creeping along the ground (1) (6). The purslane-leaved aizoon is covered in fine, velvety hairs (1) (2) (5).

The fleshy, bright green leaves of the purslane-leaved aizoon are approximately two centimetres in length, and have a slightly pointed tip, curled edges, and taper at the base (3).

The purslane-leaved aizoon has tiny, yellowish-green flowers (3) (7), which usually grow singly (1) (5), although they may occur in a branched arrangement (6).

The pentagonal or star-shaped fruit (2) of the purslane-leaved aizoon is usually red or pink (2) (7), and measures between five and nine millimetres in length (2) (6). The fruit is depressed in the centre (2) (6), and is capable of remaining on a dead plant for a long period of time (6).

The purslane-leaved aizoon produces black, shiny, kidney-shaped seeds (1) (2) (3) (5) (8) which are found in woody, star-shaped capsules (3).

Length of stem: up to 40 cm (2)

Purslane-leaved aizoon biology

Little is known about the biology of the purslane-leaved aizoon; however, it is reported to flower at different times in different parts of its range. In the United Arab Emirates, the purslane-leaved aizoon flowers between January and June (3), while in Pakistan this species flowers between September and November (5).

The seeds of the purslane-leaved aizoon are known to be dispersed by the rain (9); as the seed capsule becomes wet, it opens up and the seed is then scattered by the rainfall (4). However, birds such as shrikes and kestrels are known to be predatory dispersers of a small percentage of purslane-leaved aizoon seeds (10).

Both the leaves and seeds of the purslane-leaved aizoon are eaten (2), with the leaves being used as a green salad (1) (3) or for porridge and soup (8). Bedouins grind and cook purslane-leaved aizoon seeds as a gruel (4). This species is also known to be used as feed for domestic animals (2) (8).


Purslane-leaved aizoon range

The purslane-leaved aizoon is common and widespread in the northern regions of the United Arab Emirates (3), and occurs in other parts of Asia, including Afghanistan, western Pakistan and southern Iran (1) (5).

This species is also found in tropical and North Africa (2) (5), as well as southern and south-western Africa (2), the Canary Islands and the western and eastern Mediterranean region (1) (5).


Purslane-leaved aizoon habitat

Dry environments such as compact sand and gravel plains are the main habitat of the purslane-leaved aizoon (3) (6) (7) (8). This species is also often found on disturbed land (6), such as on roadsides and in cultivated grounds, as well as on rocky soils (2).

The purslane-leaved aizoon is mainly found in areas where rainfall occurs in the summer, although it is able to withstand a certain amount of winter rain (6). This species has also been recorded on offshore islands (3).

This herbaceous species is found up to elevations of around 2,000 metres above sea level (7).


Purslane-leaved aizoon status

The purslane-leaved aizoon has not yet been classified on the IUCN Red List.


Purslane-leaved aizoon threats

There are currently no known threats to the purslane-leaved aizoon.


Purslane-leaved aizoon conservation

There are currently no conservation actions specifically targeting the purslane-leaved aizoon. However, this species is known to occur in Wadi El Gemal National Park in Egypt (8).


Find out more

For more information about conservation in the Emirates:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



A plant that lives or grows for just one year.
A small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.


  1. Tropicos - Missouri Botanical Garden (September, 2011)
  2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (April, 2012)
  3. Jongbloed, M.V.D. (2003) The Comprehensive Guide to the Wild Flowers of the United Arab Emirates. Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, Abu Dhabi.
  4. Wickens, G.E. (1998) Ecophysiology of Economic Plants in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands. Springer, Berlin.
  5. Flora of Pakistan - Aizoon canariense (April, 2012)
  6. Hartmann, H.E.K. (Ed.) (2002) Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Aizoaceae: A - E, Volume 1. Springer, Berlin.
  7. Miller, A.G., Cope, T.A., Nyberg, J.A., Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1996) Flora of the Arabian Peninsula and Socotra, Volume 1. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.
  8. Mahmoud, T. (2010) Desert Plants of Egypt’s Wadi El Gemal National Park. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  9. Gutterman, Y. (2001) Regeneration of Plants in Arid Ecosystems Resulting from Patch Disturbance. Springer, Berlin.
  10. Padilla, D.P., González-Castro, A. and Nogales, M. (2012) Significance and extent of secondary seed dispersal by predatory birds on oceanic islands: the case of the Canary archipelago. Journal of Ecology, 100: 416-427.

Image credit

Aizoon canariense in flower  
Aizoon canariense in flower

© Dr Helen Pickering

Helen Pickering
Royal Botanic Gardens
United Kingdom


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