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Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a globally-distributed plant with a long history of use in folk medicine and cooking. We have developed purslane as a model system for exploring plant responses to stress. We exposed two varieties of purslane to saline stress with the objective of identifying differences between the varieties in the plasticity of morphological and physiological traits. The varieties responded to saline stress with significantly different changes in the measured traits, which included inter alia biomass, flower counts, proline concentrations and betalain pigment concentrations. The alternative responses of the two varieties consisted of complex, simultaneous changes in multiple traits. In particular, we observed that while both varieties increased production of betalain pigments and proline under saline stress, one variety invested more in betalain pigments while the other invested more in proline. Proline and betalain pigments undoubtedly play multiple roles in plant tissues, but in this case their role as antioxidants deployed to ameliorate saline stress appears to be important. Taken holistically, our results suggest that the two varieties employ different strategies in allocating resources to cope with saline stress. This conclusion establishes purslane as a suitable model system for the study of saline stress and the molecular basis for differential responses.


: © 2015 Mulry et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability Statement: Data have been deposited to Zenodo: 10.5281/zenodo.30566.

Funding: KRM and BAHwere supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Environmental Education Grant (reference number 40900677) to DePauw University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.