Aizoaceae (Carpetweed Family)
Common Ice Plant
Crystal Ice Plant
Very succulent annual, prostrate, much-branched, the branches 2-6 dm.
long, with large vescicles; lvs. ovate or spatulate, 2-10 cm. long, narrowed to
a short amplexicaul base or somewhat petioled; fl. tube campanulate, 8-12 mm.
long; petals white to reddish, 6-8 mm. long; caps. 5-loculed; seeds brown,
round-papillate, ca. 0.8 mm. long.
Habitat: More or less saline places, Coastal Strand, Coastal Sage Scrub; along the coast from L. Calif. to cent. Calif. Mar.-Oct.
The genus name, Mesembryanthemum,
was originally named Mesembrianthemum
from mesembria, meaning mid-day,
because the flowers were believed to open only in the sun, but when
night-blooming species were discovered, the spelling was changed so that the
name indicated a flower with its fruit in the middle (mesos, middle, and bryon,
Crystallinum refers to the many ice-like bubbles on the herbage.
The common name is said to have arisen because it is claimed that even on
the hottest day, the leaves are cool to the touch.
(Dale 40). The origin of Gasoul has not been found. Cryophytum
is Greek for ice and plant.
Common in the study area. (my comment).
The plant is introduced and thus was not used by the early Indians.
Iceplant was advertised in American seed lists of 1881 as a desirable
vegetable for boiling like spinach or for a garnish.
In its native land, the entire plant of a similar species is beaten,
fermented and chewed. The leaves
can be used as a substitute for making pickles, but are best when added fresh to
salads. (Clarke 152-53).
Introduced species often invade native communities following disturbance,
and some become a common part of that community even when disturbance is
peripheral. Two ice plants, Mesembryanthemum
crystallinum and M. nodiflorum,
germinate readily in roadways at the upper marsh boundary, while brass-buttons, Cotula
coronopifolia, has become a common member of southern California coastal
marshes. All three species are native to South Africa.
Two European grasses, Parapholis incurva and Polypogon
monspeliensis, are sometimes
abundant in upper marsh habitats. (Zedler
38). This plant adds
salt to the soil after death and may prevent natives from growing on such spots.
(Dale 40). There are several large patches on the Castaways
Bluffs where M. crystallinum has grown and left the ground so salty no other plants
can survive. (my comment).
Delfina Cuero, a Kumeyaay or Southern Diegueno Indian, made the following
comments about M. crystallinum in her autobiography: "Used red berries and red leaves as face rouge and
paint; roots or whole plant was ground for soap.
Away from the salt marsh, leaves are cooked and eaten as greens; at the
marsh or beach they are too salty to eat." (Shipek 93).
The plant is disagreeable to walk through, as it yields up
Abrams, Vol. III 118; Bailey 362; Hickman, Ed. 129; Munz, Calif. Flora 309; Munz, Flora
So. Calif. 56; Roberts 6.
Photo Ref: Dec 2 82 # 9; April 7 83 # 22; April-May 91 # 31.
Identity: by R. De Ruff.
First Found: December 1982.
Computer Ref: Plant Data 119.
No plant specimen.
Last edit 6/5/05.