Carpobrotus edulis (L.) L. Bolus
Mesembryanthemum edule L.
Ice Plant, Hottentot Fig, Highway Ice Plant, Pigface, Sour Fig
I couldn’t find an explanation for the common name, “ice plants.” It certainly isn’t related to their preferred climate, which is hot and dry. Ice plants are succulents—plants that cope with arid regions by storing water in thick leaves. Ice plants are native to South Africa. They were introduced into North America, where they thrived and are classified as invasive species in many habitats.
Identification: Plants form large, low-growing mats less than 5" (13 cm) high. Leaves are about 24-51" (60-130 cm) long, and triangular in cross-section, with each edge about ⅜-⁷/₁₆" (1-1.2 cm) long. Flowers are yellow or light pink and 2½-6" (6.3-15 cm) in diameter. Don’t confuse these with Carpobrotus chilensis:
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|Plant||A few inches high, with stems that creep along the ground, spreading quickly.||3-4" (7.6-10 cm) high, with stems that creep along the ground, spreading quickly.|
|Flowers||Dark pink or purple. Larger, 1½-2½" (3.8-6.3 cm) in diameter.||Smaller, 2½-6" (6.3-15 cm) in diameter, yellow or light pink.|
|Leaves||Triangular cross section, 1½" (3.8 cm) long||Up to 5" (13 cm) long, dense, triangular in cross-section. Green or yellow-green leaves may be tinged with red.|
|Fruit||Green to yellowish, roughly oval||About 1½" (3.8 cm) in diameter, shaped like a spinning top.|
USDA Zones: 9b-11
USDA Zones: 9-11
|Habitats||Coastal sage scrub||Coastal sage scrub|
|Occurrence||Common, fairly invasive||Invasive in California, Australia, and the Mediterranean|
Edibility: Fully ripe fruit can be made into pickles, chutney, etc. Leaves are edible, used in salads or as a substitute for pickled cucumber, though some don’t like the sticky nature of the interior (like okra).
Carpobrotus edulis on the South African National Biodiversity Institute's web site, plantzafrica.com
Carpobrotus edulis on Wikipedia
Carpobrotus edulis on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Carpobrotus edulis at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Carpobrotus edulis at the California Invasive Plant Council
Carpobrotus edulis on CalPhotos
Carpobrotus edulis on the Global Invasive Species Database
Carpobrotus edulis from the Jepson Manual
Carpobrotus edulis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.
Range: Zones 9-11: