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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 creeping, mat-forming, perennial with 3-angled, succulent 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. They are daisy-like and up to 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. The leaves are crowded along the stem, yellowish to grass-green and reddish when older, triangular in cross-section, up to 5.2 inches (13 cm) long and up to 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) thick. The edible fruits are fleshy, yellow and fragrant when ripe and up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in diameter.

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 spittle bugs 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 a 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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