Claytonia perfoliata

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Claytonia perfoliata
Claytonia perfoliata 6641.JPG
Claytonia perfoliata subsp. perfoliata growing wild in Washington Park, Anacortes, Washington
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Montiaceae
Genus: Claytonia
C. perfoliata
Binomial name
Claytonia perfoliata
  • Claytonia cubensis Bonpl.
  • Claytonia spathulata Douglas nom. illeg.
  • Limnia angustifolia (Greene) Rydb.
  • Limnia carnosa (Greene) A. Heller ex Rydb.
  • Limnia mexicana Rydb.
  • Limnia perfoliata (Donn ex Willd.) Haw.
  • Limnia spathulata (Douglas ex Hook.) A. Heller
  • Montia mexicana (Rydb.) Pax & K. Hoffm.
  • Montia perfoliata (Donn ex Willd.) Howell
  • Montia spathulata (Douglas ex Hook.) Howell

Claytonia perfoliata (syn. Montia perfoliata), also known as miner's lettuce, Indian lettuce, spring beauty, winter purslane, or palsingat, is a flowering plant in the family Montiaceae. It is a fleshy, herbaceous, annual plant native to the western mountain and coastal regions of North America, from southernmost Alaska and central British Columbia, all the way south to Central America, but most common in California in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin Valleys.

Together with Claytonia parviflora and C. rubra, C. perfoliata comprises what is almost certainly a polyploid pillar complex,[2] which is based on three diploid species.[3] Two key studies on the population ecology and genetics of the C. perfoliata complex were published in 2012.[2][4]


Claytonia perfoliata is a tender rosette-forming plant that grows to some 30 centimetres (12 in) in height,[5] but mature plants can be as short as 1 centimetre (0.39 in). The cotyledons are usually bright green (rarely purplish- or brownish-green), succulent, long and narrow. The first true leaves form a rosette at the base of the plant, and are 0.5 to 4 centimetres (0.20 to 1.57 in) long, with a typically long petiole (exceptionally up to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long).

The small pink or white flowers have five petals 2 to 6 millimetres (0.079 to 0.236 in) long. The flowers appear from February to May or June and are grouped 5–40 together. The flowers grow above a pair of leaves that are connected together around the stem so as to appear as a single circular leaf. Mature plants form a rosette; they have numerous erect to spreading stems that branch from the base.

C. perfoliata is common in the springtime, and prefers a cool, damp environment. The plant first appears in sunlit areas after the first heavy rains of the year, though the best stands are found in shaded areas, especially in the uplands, into early summer. As the days get hotter and drier, the leaves turn a deep red color as they dry out.


There are three well-studied geographical subspecies of C. perfoliata:[3]


The common name of miner's lettuce refers to how the plant was used by miners during the California Gold Rush, who ate it to prevent scurvy.[6][7][8] It is in season in April and May, and can be eaten as a leaf vegetable.[9] The entire plant is edible, except the roots, and it provides vitamin C.[10] Most commonly, it is eaten raw in salads, but it is not quite as delicate as cultivated lettuce. Sometimes, it is boiled like spinach, which it resembles in taste and chemical composition. Caution should be used because wild C. perfoliata can sometimes accumulate toxic amounts of soluble oxalates (also present in spinach).[11]

The plant is known as palsingat or, possibly, lahchumeek in Ivilyuat and it was eaten fresh or boiled as a green by the Ivilyuqaletem (Cahuilla) of Southern California. It, along with Claytonia exigua, are available for gathering in the early Spring.[12]

It has been widely naturalized in western Europe, after being introduced there in the eighteenth century, possibly by the naturalist Archibald Menzies, who brought it to Kew Gardens in London in 1794.[13][14]


Other names[edit]

Claytonia perfoliata is called piyada̠ʼ in the Western Mono language and palsingat in Ivilyuat — two Native American languages of California.[15]


  1. ^ "The Plant List: A working list of all plant species". Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b McIntyre, P. J. 2012. Cytogeography and genome size variation in the Claytonia perfoliata (Portulacaceae) polyploid complex. Annals of Botany (Oxford) 110(6): 1195-203
  3. ^ a b Miller, J. M. and K. L. Chambers. 2006. Systematics of Claytonia (Portulacaceae). Systematic Botany Monographs 78: 1-236 ISBN 0-912861-78-9
  4. ^ McIntyre, P. J. 2012. Polyploidy associated with altered and broader ecological niches in the Claytonia perfoliata (Portulacaceae) species complex. American Journal of Botany 99(4): 655-62.
  5. ^ Elias, Thomas S.; Dykeman, Peter A. (2009) [1982]. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods. New York: Sterling. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-4027-6715-9. OCLC 244766414.
  6. ^ Small, Ernest (2014). North American Cornucopia: Top 100 Indigenous Food Plants. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press. p. 697. ISBN 9781466585942.
  7. ^ Miner's lettuce was prescribed by Rev. William Taylor in 1849 during the California gold rush: Purdy, Helen Throop (1912). San Francisco: As It Was, As It Is, And How To See It. San Francisco, California, USA: Paul Elder and Co. p. 178. ISBN 9780598280268.
  8. ^ Rev. William Taylor's account of using miner's lettuce to treat scurvy: Taylor, William (1860). California Life Illustrated. New York, New York, USA: Carlton & Porter. pp. 230–231.
  9. ^ Lyons, C. P. (1956). Trees, Shrubs and Flowers to Know in Washington (1st ed.). Canada: J. M. Dent & Sons. p. 106.
  10. ^ Nyerges, Christopher (2016). Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America: More than 150 Delicious Recipes Using Nature's Edibles. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-4930-1499-6.
  11. ^ "Miner's Lettuce". UC IPM Online. UC Davis.
  12. ^ Bean, John Bean; Saubel, Katherine Siva (1969). Temalpakh (from the Earth): Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants. Malki Museum Press. ISBN 978-0939046249.
  13. ^ Hank Shaw (March 7, 2011). "Foraging for Miner's Lettuce, America's Gift to Salad". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
  14. ^ Archibald Menzies (1923). Menzies' Journal of Vancouver's Voyage, April to October, 1792 [extract]. W. H. Cullin Printers. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  15. ^ "A Dictionary of Western Mono: Second Edition"

External links[edit]