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Carpobrotus edulis
Carpobrotus edulis
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Aizoaceae
Subfamily: Ruschioideae
Tribe: Ruschieae
Genus: Carpobrotus

Carpobrotus, commonly known as pigface, ice plant, sour fig, Hottentot fig, and clawberry is a genus of ground-creeping plants with succulent leaves and large daisy-like flowers. The name comes from the Ancient Greek karpos "fruit" and brotos "edible", referring to its edible fruits.[1]

The genus includes some 12 to 20 accepted species. Most are endemic to South Africa, but there are at least four Australian species and one South American.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Carpobrotus chiefly inhabits sandy coastal habitats in mild Mediterranean climates, and can be also found inland in sandy to marshy places. In general, they prefer open sandy spaces where their wiry, long roots with shorter side branches form dense underground network, which extends much further than above-ground prostrate branches. Plants thrive well in gardens, but readily escape to other suitable places. They can form wide-area ground cover over a sandy soil, which suppresses indigenous sand dune vegetation when introduced to a non-native area.[2]

Carpobrotus is native to South Africa, the south coast of Australian and coastal Chile.[2] As an introduced species, it has become widespread in similar habitats in the Northern Hemisphere: the Pacific coast of the United States, the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Europe, and New Zealand.[3]


The fruit of various species of Carpobrotus is eaten by many animals and birds, which also spread its seed.

Vast colony of Carpobrotus at the Pescadero Marsh Natural Reserve, California

Various Carpobrotus species are invasive introduced species in suitable climates throughout the world. The harm they do is variable, and sometimes hotly debated, when balanced against their value as firebreaks[4] and as food for wildlife.[5] Seeds are spread by mammals such as deer, rabbits, and rodents eating mature fruit.[6]


Carpobrotus acinaciformis and Carpobrotus edulis are often used for groundcover due to their rapid growth, dense habit, and resistance to fire. Carpobrotus are also drought tolerant.

Medicinal and nutritional value[edit]

C. glaucescens is noted for its salty fruit, a rare property in fruits.[7]

Carpobrotus leaf juice can be used as a mild astringent. Applied to the skin, it is a popular emergency treatment for jellyfish and similar stings.[8] When mixed with water it can be used to treat diarrhea and stomach cramps. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throat, laryngitis, and mild bacterial infections of the mouth,[9] and can be used externally, much like aloe vera, to treat wounds, mosquito bites, sunburn, and skin conditions. It was a remedy for tuberculosis mixed with honey and olive oil.[citation needed] The fruit has been used as a laxative.[10]


Carpobrotus includes the following species:[11]


  1. ^ Hyam, R. & Pankhurst, R.J. (1995). Plants and their names : a concise dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-19-866189-4.
  2. ^ a b Hartmann, Heidrun E. K. (6 December 2012). "Carpobrotus". Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Aizoaceae A-E. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 97–98. ISBN 978-3-642-56306-5.
  3. ^ "Sea figs (Genus Carpobrotus)". iNaturalist. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  4. ^ Fern, Ken (1997). Plants for a Future: Edible & Useful Plants for a Healthier World. Permanent Publications. pp. 165–. ISBN 978-1-85623-011-7. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  5. ^ Bossard, Carla C.; Randall, John M.; Hoshovsky, Marc C. (2000). Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22547-3. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  6. ^ "IPCW Plant Report – California Invasive Plant Council". 2017-10-16. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Is there a salty fresh fruit?". 11 June 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  8. ^ Mabberley, D. J. (1 May 2008). Mabberley's Plant-book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, Their Classifications, and Uses. Cambridge University Press. pp. 154–. ISBN 978-0-521-82071-4. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  9. ^ Uses & Cultural Aspects
  10. ^ Watt, John Mitchell; Breyer-Brandwijk, Maria Gerdina: The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa 2nd ed Pub. E & S Livingstone 1962
  11. ^ "Carpobrotus N.E.Br". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 15 January 2024.

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