Aizoaceae Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
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Mesambryanthemum nodiflorum.jpg
Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Aizoaceae
Subfamily: Mesembryanthemoideae
Genus: Mesembryanthemum

See text for accepted species


Mesembrianthemum (Jacob Breyne)

Mesembryanthemum is a genus of flowering plants in the family Aizoaceae; like many members of this family, it is characterized by long-lasting flower heads. Flowers of Mesembryanthemum protect their gametes from night-time dews or frosts but open in sunlight. There is an obvious evolutionary advantage to doing this; where sun, dew, frost, wind or predators are likely to damage exposed reproductive organs, closing may be advantageous during times when flowers are unlikely to attract pollinators. It is indigenous to southern Africa.

Many Mesembryanthemum species are known as ice plants because of the glistening globular bladder cells covering their stems, fruit and leaves,[1] "... they sparkle like ice crystals".[2] In South Africa, Mesembryanthemums are known as "vygies" (from Afrikaans "vy"), although this term refers to many plants in the family Aizoaceae.

Species formerly placed in Mesembryanthemum have been transferred to other genera, such as Cleretum, Carpobrotus and Sceletium, although sources differ.


Jacob Breyne coined the name of the flower in 1684, using the spelling Mesembrianthemum ("midday flower"[3]), from the Greek roots μεσημβρία, meaning "noon", and ἄνθεμον, meaning "flower", because the species known at his time flowered at midday. In 1719, on the discovery that some species flowered at night, Johann Jacob Dillenius changed the spelling to Mesembryanthemum ("flower with the pistil in the center"[3]), rederiving the first part of the word from Greek μεσος ("middle") and ἔμβρυον ("pistil" or "embryo"). Carl Linnaeus used the Dillenius spelling (with the "y") in his description of the Mesembryanthemum species and the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature requires the retention of the original, deliberate spelling.[3][4]


Mesembryanthemums are often cultivated as ornamental plants for their showy flowers. Ornamental plants may escape into the wild and consequently has become widely naturalized outside their native range. They are considered an invasive weed in certain places.

Culture and society

Some Mesembryanthemum species are thought to be hallucinogenic plants, like related Aizoaceae,[5] and as such may be subject to legal restrictions (e.g. Louisiana State Act 159).


As of March 2019, Plants of the World Online accepted the following species:[6]


Legal status

United States


Except for ornamental purposes, growing, selling or possessing any species of Mesembryanthemum is prohibited by Louisiana State Act 159.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Browsing: Aizoaceae". World of Succulents. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ Smith, Curtis. "Ice plant". Southwest Yard & Garden. New Mexico State University. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Jacobsen, Hermann (1978). A Handbook of Succulent Plants: Descriptions, Synonyms and Cultural Details for Succulents Other Than Cactaceae. Volume III. Mesembryanthemums (Ficoidacea). Poole, Surrey: Blandford Press Ltd. p. 1257.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “Mesembryanthemum, n.” (accessed June 24, 2008).
  5. ^ Watt, John Mitchell; Breyer-Brandwijk, Maria Gerdina: The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa 2nd ed Pub. E & S Livingstone 1962
  6. ^ "Mesembryanthemum L". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2019-03-26.