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Mesembryanthemum crystallinum.JPG
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Aizoaceae
Type genus

See text

Aizoaceae (the fig-marigold family) is a large family of dicotyledonous flowering plants containing 135 genera and about 1900 species. They are commonly known as stone plants or carpet weeds. They are often called vygies in South Africa and New Zealand. Species that resemble stones or pebbles are sometimes called mesembs. Several 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]


Mesembryanthemum guerichianum seedling, showing the bladder cells that inspired the name "ice plant".

The Aizoaceae family is widely recognised by taxonomists. It once went by the botanical name "Ficoidaceae", now disallowed. The APG II system of 2003 (unchanged from the APG system of 1998) also recognises the family, and assigns it to the order Caryophyllales in the clade core eudicots. The APG II system also classes the former families Mesembryanthemaceae Fenzl, Sesuviaceae Horan. and Tetragoniaceae Link under the family Aizoaceae.

Most species (96%, 1782 species in 132 genera) in this family are endemic to arid or semiarid parts of Southern Africa.[3] Most of these species are succulents and belong to the subfamilies Mesembryanthemoideae and Ruschioideae. A few species are found in Australia and the Central Pacific area.[1]

Aizoaceae have distinctive seed capsules (fruit). The common Afrikaans name "vygie" meaning "small fig" refers to the fruiting capsule, which resembles the true fig.[4]

Most fig-marigolds are herbaceous, rarely somewhat woody, with stems growing either erect or prostrate. Leaves are simple, opposite or alternate, and more or less succulent with entire (or rarely toothed) margins. Flowers are perfect in most species (but unisexual in some), actinomorphic, and appear singularly or in few-flowered cymes developing from the leaf axils. Sepals are typically five (3-8) and more or less connate (fused) below. True petals are absent. However, some species have numerous linear petals derived from staminodes. The seed capsule has one to numerous seeds per cell.[5]


Tetragonia tetragonoides ("New Zealand spinach")

Several Aizoaceae are edible, including:

Carpobrotus edulis was introduced to California in the early 1900s to stabilize soil along railroad tracks and has become invasive.[8]

A few species have been introduced as cultivated plants. Ice plant thrives in southern California. People surround their property with it to act as a firewall to protect against wildfires;[9] it does burn if not carefully maintained.[10]


Aptenia cordifolia or rock rose
Carpobrotus edulis, an "ice plant"

Subfamily Aizooideae[11]

Subfamily Mesembryanthemoideae[12]

Subfamily Ruschioideae

Tribe Apatesieae[13]
Tribe Dorotheantheae[14]
Tribe Ruschiae[15]

Subfamily Sesuvioideae[16]


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ Chesselet, P., Smith, G.F., Burgoyne, P.M., Klak, C., Hammer, S.A., Hartmann, H.E.K., Kurzweil, H., van Jaarsveld, E.J., van Wyk, B-E. & Leistner, O.A (2000). "Seed Plants of Southern Africa". Strelitzia. 10: 360–410. 
  4. ^ "The Living Stone Page". The Succulent Plant Page. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  5. ^ Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992 onwards). "The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval". 20 June 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ a b c Facciola. S. (1990). Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications. ISBN 0-9628087-0-9. 
  7. ^ Low. T. (1989). Wild Food Plants of Australia. Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0-207-14383-8. 
  8. ^ "Invasive Plants of California's Wildland". California Invasive Plant Council. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "Fire Safe Landscaping". Cal Fire. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  10. ^ Baldwin, Debra Lee. "Firewise Landscaping with Succulents - How succulents saved a Rancho Santa Fe home from wildfire". Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  11. ^ "GRIN Genera of Aizoaceae subfam. Aizooideae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  12. ^ "GRIN Genera of Aizoaceae subfam. Mesembryanthemoideae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  13. ^ "GRIN Genera of Aizoaceae tribe Apatesieae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  14. ^ "GRIN Genera of Aizoaceae tribe Dorotheantheae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  15. ^ "GRIN Genera of Aizoaceae tribe Ruschiae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Archived from the original on 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  16. ^ "GRIN Genera of Aizoaceae subfam. Sesuvioideae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 


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