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Carpobrotus edulis (Hottentot Fig)

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Scientific Name

Carpobrotus edulis (L.) N. E. Br.

Common Names

Hottentot Fig, Ice Plant, Highway Ice Plant, Freeway Ice Plant, Pigface, Sour Fig, Sea Fig, Cape Fig

Synonyms

Mesembryanthemum edule (basionym)

Scientific Classification

Family: Aizoaceae
Subfamily: Ruschioideae
Tribe: Ruschieae
Genus: Carpobrotus

Description

Carpobrotus edulis is a mat-forming succulent with creeping stems, 3-angled, fleshy leaves, and yellow or light pink flowers. It is easily confused with its close relatives but can be distinguished from most of them by the size and color of its flowers that are daisy-like and up to 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Leaves are crowded along the stem, yellowish to grass-green, and reddish when older. They are triangular in cross-section, up to 5.2 inches (13 cm) long and up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick. The edible fruits are fleshy, yellow, fragrant when ripe and up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in diameter.

The word "Hottentot" in the common name is first recorded in the late 17th century, and it was used to refer to the Khoikhoi, a group of Khoisan-speaking pastoral peoples of South Africa and Namibia. It is now regarded as too derogatory and offensive to be used in an ethnic sense. The only acceptable modern use for "Hottentot" is in the common names of plants and animals.

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 8b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Carpobrotus plants are notoriously unfussy. As long as their soil drains well, the soil is allowed to dry out between watering, and the plant receives pinching or pruning to keep it in shape, there is little more to be done.

The only serious threats to the plant's health are spittlebugs and some root rots and stem rots. You can avoid the rot by minimizing overhead watering during periods in which the plant will not dry off before nightfall. The bugs will remove themselves if you spray with horticultural soap.

Growing Carpobrotus in containers is ideal, and you can overwinter them in temperate regions. Just bring the pot in and water it deeply. Cut back the plant and let it dry out and languish for the winter in a warm location. In spring, resume regular watering and move the plant to a full light situation where it has some protection from burning rays. Gradually reintroduce the plant to temperatures outdoors until it can tolerate a full day outside.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Carpobrotus.

Origin

Carpobrotus edulis is native to South Africa (Coastal and inland slopes from Namaqualand in the Northern Cape through the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape).

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