Common Weed Could Be Key to Drought-Resistant Crops

Medscape Staff

August 30, 2022

The common weed called purslane may be a “super plant” in developing drought-resistant crops according to a group of Yale University biologists looking at the plant’s metabolic pathways.

What to Know:

  • Portulaca oleracea, commonly known as purslane, integrates two distinct metabolic pathways to create a unique form of photosynthesis that enables the weed to endure drought while remaining highly productive.

  • Purslane possesses both C4 photosynthesis, which allows the plant to remain productive under high temperatures as well as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis, which helps plants survive in deserts and other areas with little water, an unlikely combination for a plant.

  • It was originally believed that C4 and CAM operated independently within leaves of purslane, but it has now been determined that the activity between the two are totally integrated.

  • The two types of photosynthesis operate in the same cells, with products of CAM reactions being processed by the C4 pathway, providing unusual levels of protection for a C4 plant in times of drought.

  • Understanding this unique metabolic pathway of purslane could help scientists devise new ways to engineer crops such as corn to help withstand prolonged drought.

This is a summary of the article "Common weed may be 'super plant' that holds key to drought-resistant crops," published by Yale News on August 5, 2022. The full article can be found on

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