Several, see text.
Mesembryanthemum (meaning "midday flowering") is a genus of flowering plants indigenous to southern Africa. Many species formerly placed herein, such as Dorotheanthus bellidiformis, Carpobrotus and Sceletium have since been moved into other genera.
Fig marigold or icicle plant is a name for any of several South African taxa of Mesembryanthemum which are cultivated as ornamental plants for their showy pink or white flowers. "Pebble plant" or "Ice plant" are other, but rather ambiguous, common names, usually referring to other Aizoaceae. In Afrikaans, "Mesembryanthemums" are known as 'vygies', although this term also refers to many plants in the family Aizoaceae.
Mesembryanthemum is a member of 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.
Ornamental Mesembryanthemum may escape into the wild and consequently has become widely naturalized outside their native range. They are considered an invasive weed in certain places. Some species are thought to be hallucinogenic plants like related Aizoaceae and as such may be subject to legal restrictions (e.g. Louisiana State Act 159).
Jacob Breyne coined the name of the flower in 1684, using the spelling Mesembrianthemum, 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", rederiving the first part of the word from Greek μεσος ("middle") and ἔμβρυον ("rudimentary fruit" or "embryo").
- Mesembryanthemum aitonis
- Mesembryanthemum cryptanthum
- Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
- Mesembryanthemum horridum
- Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum
Notes and references
- Watt, John Mitchell; Breyer-Brandwijk, Maria Gerdina: The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa 2nd ed Pub. E & S Livingstone 1962
- Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “Mesembryanthemum, n.” (accessed June 24, 2008).
- Pink, A. (2004). Gardening for the Million. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
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