Ice plants are hot
In recent weeks, I've been focusing a lot on aloes—no surprise, seeing how they're at their bloom peak right now.
But there's another group of succulents from Southern Africa that give us vibrant color at this time of year: ice plants native to winter rainfall areas. This common name refers to the succulent members of a huge family, the Aizoaceae. Some people also call them mesembs, after the genus Mesembryanthemum, which once contained most of the commonly seen species. In South Africa, they're known as “vygies,” meaning “little figs” in Afrikaans.
The photos in this post were taken at the Ruth Bancroft Garden last weekend. I was fortunate enough to run into curator Brian Kemble, and he identified the plants for me. I'm able to recognize maybe a handful of different species by sight, but the vast majority of them eludes me.
Many ice plant species hug the ground and are ideal for filling bare spots. I'm making a concerted effort to add more to our garden for that very reason. The flowers are an extra bonus, but what a bonus they are!
|Oscularia caulescens. This is one of the more common species; I've seen it sold even at big garden centers.|
|Marlothistella stenophylla. The rocks really make it stand out.|
|Delosperma sphalmanthoides; unlike most Delosperma species, this one is native to the winter rainfall portion of South Africa and flowers in winter|
|Ruschia karooica, taller than most of the plants in this post|
|Cephalophyllum 'Red Spike' (with Euphorbia myrsinites on the left)|
|Cephalophyllum 'Red Spike'|
|Cephalophyllum stayneri (with Euphorbia caput-medusae)|
|Cheiridopsis denticulatum, older flower|
The ice plant, which is native to southern and eastern Africa, is named for the small, transparent bladders that cover its leaves and make the plant look like it’s covered with frozen dew.
Not all “ice plants” glisten, but some certainly do.
And not all ice plants bloom in the winter. Species from areas that receive summer rainfall (generally speaking the eastern parts of South Africa) flower in the summer. This includes many members of the genus Delosperma, including Delosperma cooperi and the popular Delosperma hybrids ('Fire Spinner', the 'Jewel of the Desert' series, etc.).
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