I am going to continue with the plant theme for this week’s article because there are so many flowers at this time of year that deserve mentioning. Ice plant is one of the best flowering plants in the spring, and there are many different varieties.
The most common and most noticeable is the thick-leaved ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) that grows invasively along the shoreline, in yards and on embankments along the freeways. This ice plant, also called the Sour Fig (or Hottentot Fig) was brought to California from South Africa in the early 1900s to control erosion. The succulent leaves, triangular in cross-section, are edible (ground squirrels love them) and the fruit is also edible. Flowers are up to 4-inches in diameter and begin bright yellow and then fade to pale pink. This ice plant species may hybridize with another, Lampranthus sp., which has smaller magenta flowers. Many of the other purple ice plants are from the genus Delosperma, but there are over 100 different species so they are difficult to tell apart.
Although ice plant does provide some soil stability to crumbly cliffs and loose soil, it is not native to the area and quickly takes over once established, choking out natural desert and chaparral plants that would normally grow in our area. But they are very beautiful and are best enjoyed in the middle of a warm sunny day, as the flowers close up at night.