I can recall having seen this plant in the past but not that often, not surprising because its distribution does not coincide with where I have lived. It is mostly found in Devon and Cornwall and then spread across the UK from the north Midlands and right up into Scotland.
I think I saw it last in Yorkshire somewhere near Bolton Abbey which we visited whilst staying with friends in Skipton, but it is not a plant I see locally. I also saw it several times on a visit to Canada, particularly along the Kootenai river. Unfortunately I did not take any photographs of this plant, so I have been keeping an eye out for it. Given its relative rarity in my neck of the woods I was thinking that a special trip to Devon or Cornwall might be the best way to see it…. Canada would also be good!. Then I saw a photograph of it posted by a member of a very popular Face Book group called ‘Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland’ and it said that the picture was taken on the river Usk in Monmouthshire. Not so far from where I live. I contacted the lady, Jenny, who had posted the picture and she kindly informed me of the place where she had seen it.
To cut a long story short I walked many miles along the Usk searching for the plant. I hasten to add that this was not because of the directions I had received but more because I have lost my OS map and my home made sketch map was not that clever also some well meaning local fishermen sent me off in the wrong direction. Still it was a lovely day and the Usk is beautiful. It is quite different to the Wye where I spend quite a lot of time despite the two rivers being only a few miles apart, both running from north to south, the Wye entering the sea or Severn estuary at Chepstow and the Usk ending up at Newport. The Wye is more dramatic, more of a gorge and the Usk is more open, flowing through flatter countryside. Both are to be recommended.
Eventually I found the plants, exactly where Jenny had described and only a five minute walk from where I had parked my vehicle. There were only about 10 little patches of the plant and most were growing right beside the river bank. It was a fairly shady area with some big Ash trees above.
The plant is related to another species called Spring Beauty, which I saw quite often on Sand dunes in Norfolk. They were both formerly in the genus Montia but have now been move into the genus Claytonia. Both plants have characteristic upper leaves which surround the small group of flowers. In the case of Pink Purslane they are two distinct leaves but they do wrap around and sort of cup the flowers. In Spring Beauty the two leaves are fused and form a complete collar around the flowers.
Pink Purslane is an introduced species originating from North America particularly the west coast of Canada also the east coast of Asia ie the Pacific rim, Spring Beauty also comes from America but more south as in California. Pink Purslane was first introduced into the UK in the 18th century and has become established in the countryside. Some of the garden specimens have recently been bred with much smaller leaves, so if you find specimens with that characteristic you will know that they represent more recent escapes. It probably spreads by dropping its seeds into water courses and then they float down stream to colonise suitable ground further on. However in all my extensive ramblings along the river Usk I only found them to be growing in one short stretch of about 30 meters.
It flowers from April through to July, the flowers are pink with attractive darker pink veins, one odd characteristic, if you look carefully is the the anthers are also pink, pollen is usually yellow, I do not know why but with this plant it is not yellow it is pink.
This plant is supposed to be edible being excellent in salads, something has been nibbling at the petals of the ones I photographed …. not me, I did not try it. It is claimed to be high in Omega 3 oils – normally found in fish oils and algae, also it has a host of vitamins and minerals.