Carpobrotus chilensis, commonly known as Ice plant or sea fig in various countries, is a succulent plant that belongs to the fig-marigold or Aizoaceae family. Although it is mainly used for ornamental purposes, the fruit part of this species is also edible and has a pleasant flavor. The Ice plant is usually found in warm temperate as well as subtropical regions and is possibly native to southern Africa. It is more commonly found at the roadsides and alongside the coastal areas. The plant is also familiar in other regions like the coastline of western areas of North America.
Facts about Ice plant (Carpobrotus chilensis)
Let’s have a look at some of the interesting facts about the Carpobrotus chilensis –
- The species grows in thick mats, having stems that are spread over the ground horizontally.
- Ice plants love light and can thrive in direct sunlight. It can even do well even in harsh sunlight conditions, with some light shade. The ideal temperatures in which the species can survive can vary between 40°-100° Fahrenheit.
- Ice plants are grassy-green or yellowish when they are new. However, as they grow older, they turn into a rusty-orange color.
- It has a sour and salty jelly-like interior, which might carry a grassy flavor. However, a fully ripened Ice plant grows quite sweeter.
- Ice plants can thrive in rainwater.
- Due to its thick, dense, and quick growths and spreads, the Ice plant can be a threat to the proper growth of native vegetation.
- The plan also grows shallow roots, which one can easily remove by the hand.
History of Ice plant (Carpobrotus chilensis)
The ice plant was first introduced to California during the early 1900s, which was used as a tool for erosion stabilization, used on the railroad tracks. The Caltrans later used it on the roadsides. At present, it is a succulent coastal shrub, which is native to South Africa. The species was first advertised in the 1881 American seed lists as a preferable vegetable for a garnish or for boiling.
Characteristic of Ice plant (Carpobrotus chilensis)
Carpobrotus chilensis has extended prostrate stems that can be up to 2 meters long or even more. These stems root at the nodes that have the capability of carpeting the ground. The Ice plant comes with fleshy and pointed leaves that are triangular-shaped cross-section-wise. The Ice plant grows well in sandy soil and is quite hardy, thus being able to withstand all human disturbances. The species is commonly found in the frequently-traveled beaches, and therefore, it becomes a threat to many native coastal ecosystems.
Ice plants, much like other flowers in the Carpobrotus genus, produce beautiful and colorful blooms, which remain open in the morning and close up during the night. The flowers of Ice plants generally have a rich magenta hue and are relatively smaller in diameter. However, they do not have any strong fragrance. Moreover, Ice plants can blossom and fruit throughout the year. The fruits are about 3-4 cm in diameter, bearing seeds that have a structure quite common to that of the fig.
The plant usually isn’t very tall and has a slow growth rate. It can reach heights of a maximum of 6 to 12 inches, having a width of about 18 to 24 inches.
Use of Ice plant (Carpobrotus chilensis)
Among the many uses of Ice plant include –
- Ice plant, especially its fruit part, is often eaten for its laxative properties, which is for clearing one’s bowels. It can be consumed either as a cooked form (especially its leaves), in pickled form, or as raw.
- The leaves of this species are also consumed as salad, and one can use it as a substitute for pickled cucumber.
- Ice plants have specific medicinal properties; for example, the juice of its leaves is acerbic and has slight antiseptic values.
- It can be used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and stomach cramps by mixing it with water. One can also gargle the solution to alleviate sore throat, laryngitis, and mouth infections.
- The leaf juice can even be used as a curative to treat or lessen the effects of bruises, burns, cuts, scrapes, sunburn, herpes, eczema, ringworm, dermatitis, cold sores, nappy rash, cracked lips, allergies, various skin conditions, and insect stings.
Ice plant (Carpobrotus chilensis) Flower Meaning
The name ‘Ice plant’ did not emerge from the fact that it is cold-hardy. Instead, its name most probably came from the tiny hairs present on its stems that reflect sunlight, thus making it glisten in the sun like ice.
The Ice plant carries a symbolic meaning of a serenade. It is also sometimes referred to as a symbol of good fortune and good luck. However, in some cultures, the Ice plant is regarded as an image of idleness, rejection, cold looks, or Old Beau.
How to Care For Ice plant (Carpobrotus chilensis)
You can quickly propagate Ice plants through cuttings by planting them in the soil immediately or in your garden. It will develop roots without requiring any mist or root hormone.
Make sure that you are allowing the soil to dry in between watering sessions, thus preventing overwatering. Be careful with the watering. Otherwise, you might risk stem and root rots. The best part is, even if you go a little negligent, the plant will still survive since it is drought-tolerant.
- Feeding and Fertilising
Feed your Ice plant with a well-balanced liquid fertilizer, once the plant has completed its first flowering season. The good thing about Ice plants is that it has much lesser feeding needs, and you can feed it with any organic fertilizer during the autumn months.
- Type of Soil and Transplanting
Ice plants do well in weaker, sandy soils. However, they do require good drainage. The best choice for planting Ice plants is loam or clay. Also, these species can survive in saline soils.
- Maintenance and Grooming
It is advised that you must bring your Ice plant indoors either if it is winter, or if you live in colder regions. Also, do consider covering your plant by using a frost blanket to provide it with extra protection. Alternatively, you can also make your plant ready for the coming winter season, by depriving it of water during the autumn. This will enable your Ice plant to become much more cold-resistant.