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Aizoaceae
Plants of the Carpetweed Family

(Formerly known as the Fig-marigold Family: Ficoidaceae)

      If you have ever seen a succulent plant at the beach with fat, angular leaves then you have likely encountered one or another member of the Carpetweed family. The fleshy, globular leaves of some species resemble stones or pebbles. Other species are known as "ice plants" due to the glistening bladder-like cells that cover the stems, leaves, and fruits. These are mostly succulent plants, either erect, or sprawling across the ground, with simple, alternate or opposite leaves. The flowers are bisexual in most (not all) species, with 5 sepals (sometimes 3 to 8) usually united at the base. There are no true petals, but some species have numerous skinny "petals" derived from sterile stamens. The ovary matures as a capsule with one to numerous seeds per cell.

      Worldwide there are about 135 genera and 1900 species, mostly native to southern Africa, with a few species endemic to Australia and Pacific islands. Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) and sea fig (C. chilensis) have been widely introduced as a ground cover to control erosion, often becoming invasive. As the species name C. edulis suggests, ice plant and many of its relatives are considered edible. This family is not included in Botany in a Day.

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Aptenia cordifolia. Heartleaf Iceplant.

Aptenia cordifolia. Heartleaf Iceplant. Possibly hybridized with A. haeckeliana. Native to southern Africa. Photographed in Mexico City.

Carpobrotus chilensis. Sea Fig or Ice Plant.

Carpobrotus chilensis. Sea fig or ice plant. Imported from southern Africa. Photographed in California.

There are more
Carpetweed Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


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Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
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