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Scientific: Carpobrotus edulis (formerly in the genus Mesembryanthemum)
Common: hottentot fig, ice plant, highway ice plant
Family: Aizoaceae
Origin: South Africa, but has naturalized in many cooler, very sandy soiled, Mediterranean regions of California and Australia.

Invasive alert: Because of its high adaptivity to maritime Mediterranean climates with sandy soils, hottentot fig has gained the reputation of being an invasive plant species in places such as coastal California. It is easily killed by the use of glyphosate herbicide during summer.

Pronounciation: Car-po-BRO-tus e-DU-lis

Hardiness zones
13 (might freeze during winters-24
USDA 9 (might freeze during winters)-11

Landscape Use: Ground cover, succulent accent, containers, large entryways, erosion control and beach sand stabilization.

Form & Character: Very succulent and squishy, stiff, sprawling, informal.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, succulent perennial, moderately vigorous, prostrate and trailing to 1-foot tall with a 5-feet spread when young to sprawling with age; stems produce adventitious roots when in close contact to soil.

Foliage/Texture: Green to gray green triangular succulent leaves, sessile, on succulent stems, foliage turns purplish, red and orange during periods of abiotic (nutrient, drought, or cold) stress; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Many linear petaled flowers, petals either yellow or pink magenta with yellow centers, flowers from 3- to 5-inches across, attract bees; fruits oblong, ovary inferior, yellowish to pinkish when mature, edible.

Seasonal Color: Flowers in late winter and early spring.

Temperature Frost and heat sensitive; grows best between 40oF and 100oF. In Phoenix, might need winter cold and summer protection (extreme heat episodes).

Light: Partial shade (best in Phoenix) to full sun (but NO western sun).

Soil: Tolerant, but does best in a light, well-drained soil.

Watering: In Phoenix, some supplemental water is needed during driest portions of summer; otherwise no addtional water is needed. Do not overwater.

Pruning: Heading cuts to control spread (use a sharp shovel). Otherwise, no pruning needed.

Propagation: Exceptionally easy by stem cuttings. Naturalizes by seed.

Disease and Pests: Spittle bug, rhizoctonia root and stem rot if soil is wet or damp for prolonged periods.

Additional comments: In the early 1900s, hottentot fig was brought to California from South Africa to stabilize soils along railroad tracks and was later put to use by Caltrans to control erosion along road embankments. Thousands of acres were planted in California until the 1990s. This is the classic freeway ice plant of the Ventura Highway (US 101) that stretches along the California coast from Eureka to San Diego. Because of the high water content, hottentot fig grows into a dense, heavy mat to sometimes 2-feet thick. I planted tens of thousands of unrooted cuttings into California freeway embankments myself during the late 1970s and 1980s. There are 30 known species of Carpobrotus worldwide.

Biomedical uses: Leaves and fruits are edible and have a long history of many folkloric medicinal and nutraceutical claims.