Mesembryanthemum crystallinum


Sp. Pl. 1: 480. 1753.

Common names: Crystalline iceplant
Synonyms: Cryophytum crystallinum (Linnaeus) N. E. Brown Gasoul crystallinum (Linnaeus) Rothmaler
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 4. Treatment on page 85. Mentioned on page 76, 84.

Plants annual to biennial. Stems trailing, dichotomously branched, to 1 m. Leaves sessile or petiolate; petiole, ± clasping; blade ovate to spatulate, flat, 2–20 cm, margins undulate. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, cymes; proximal bracts opposite, leaflike; distal bracts alternate, reduced; flowering profusely. Flowers 7–10 mm diam.; hypanthium aging red, round; calyx lobes 5, unequal; petals 20–40, connate into tube, white, aging pink; stamens 30. Capsules coarsely papillate. Seeds 200, rough with minute tubercles. 2n = 18.

Phenology: Flowering year-round, mostly spring–fall.
Habitat: Coastal bluffs, cliffs, ballast dumps, disturbed ground
Elevation: 0-100 m


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Introduced; Ariz., Calif., Pa., Mexico (Baja California), South America, Europe (Mediterranean), Africa, Atlantic Islands, Australia.


Introduced from southern and western Africa, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is in cultivation as an ornamental. Its use to treat scurvy by sailors, its popularity as an ornamental potted plant aboard ships, and its occurrence in ballast dumps (as in Pennsylvania) were some of the means by which this species has become so widespread throughout the world. Gauchos in Argentina used it to treat venereal disease.

Lower Taxa

Nancy J. Vivrette +
Linnaeus +
Crystalline iceplant +
Ariz. +, Calif. +, Pa. +, Mexico (Baja California) +, South America +, Europe (Mediterranean) +, Africa +, Atlantic Islands +  and Australia. +
0-100 m +
Coastal bluffs, cliffs, ballast dumps, disturbed ground +
Flowering year-round, mostly spring–fall. +
vivrette1977a +
Introduced +  and Illustrated +
Cryophytum crystallinum +  and Gasoul crystallinum +
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum +
Mesembryanthemum +
species +