Carpobrotus chilensis

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Carpobrotus chilensis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Aizoaceae
Genus: Carpobrotus
C. chilensis
Binomial name
Carpobrotus chilensis
(Molina) N.E. Br

Mesembryanthemum chilense

Carpobrotus chilensis is a species of succulent plant known by the common name sea fig. It is a species that is used as an ornamental plant, and it is also edible.


Usually found in warm temperate and subtropical areas, it is probably native to southern Africa. It is familiar elsewhere, particularly the coastline of western North America, where it is an introduced invasive species that has taken hold and become commonplace. It is also found, and naturalised, in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Australia, Spain and New Zealand. Grown in sunny conditions, it is normally found within coastal dunes and bluffs, margins of estuaries, along roadsides; at elevations from sea level to 100 metres in southwest North America.[1]


Flower closeup

Carpobrotus chilensis sends out prostrate stems that are 2 metres or more long that root at the nodes and can carpet the ground, with fleshy, pointed leaves which are triangular in cross-section. It is similar to, and often mistaken for, its close relative "ice plant" (Carpobrotus edulis), which is larger, grows alongside and sometimes hybridizes with it. For comparison, the larger, 2.5 to 6 inches (64 to 152 mm) diameter flowers of C. edulis are yellow or light pink, whereas the 1.5 to 2.5 inches (38 to 64 mm) diameter C. chilensis flowers are deep magenta and are smaller than those of ice plant..[2]

Growing well in poor sandy soil, this species is hardy and can withstand disturbance by humans, which is common on the well-travelled beaches where it grows. This trait gives it an advantage over many native plant species, causing it to become a threat to native coastal ecosystems where it has invaded.

The flowers open in the morning and close at night, and its can bloom and fruit all year round.[3]


The plant can easily be propagated by cuttings, which can be planted immediately in the soil or instantly in the garden and will root without the need of rooting hormone or mist.


The plant has a pleasant flavour, although it can be laxative if eaten in high quantity, especially its fruit. The plant can be consumed raw or cooked (especially its leaves), or dried for future use or made into pickles and chutney. There is only a tiny amount of flesh in the fruit, and it must be fully ripe otherwise it is very sour. The leaves can be used in salads and can also be used as a replacement for pickled cucumber.[4]


The leaf juice is acerbic and slightly antiseptic. It can be mixed with water and used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps, and can also be gargled to alleviate laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections. Masticating its leaf tip and ingesting the juice may relieve a sore throat. The leaf juice is also used externally as a calming curative for burns, bruises, scrapes, cuts, grazes and sunburn, ringworm, eczema, dermatitis, sunburn, herpes, nappy rash, cold sores, cracked lips, chafing, skin conditions and allergies and curative for insect stings.[5]


  1. ^ The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. Publication Author Huxley. A. Publisher MacMillan Press Year 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
  2. ^ "Medicinal plants of Fernkloof". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29.
  3. ^ Native Edible Plants of New Zealand. Publication Author Crowe. A. Publisher Hodder and Stoughton Year 1990 ISBN 0-340-508302
  4. ^ Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Publication Author Facciola. S. Publisher Kampong Publications Year 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
  5. ^ Growing Unusual Fruit. Publication Author Simmons. A. E. Publisher David & Charles; Newton Abbot. Year 1972 ISBN 0-7153-5531-7

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