Botanical Name: Carpobrotus edulis
Species: C. edulis
Synonyms: Mesembryanthemum edule L
Common Names: Hottentot-fig, Sour fig, ice plant or Highway ice plant.
Habitat: Carpobrotus edulis is native to South Africa. It grows on coastal and inland slopes in South Africa from Namaqualand in the Northern Cape through the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape. It is often seen as a pioneer on disturbed sites.
Carpobrotus edulis is a creeping, mat-forming succulent species. It grows year round, with individual shoot segments growing more than 1 m (3 ft) per year. It can grow to at least 50 m (165 ft) in diameter. The leaves are a dull-green or yellow-green colour. They are only very slightly curved and have serrated sides near the tips.
The yellow flowers are produced from April to October, and range from 6.4 to 15.2 centimetres (2+1/2 to 6 inches) in diameter. Two of the calyx lobes are longer, extending further than the petals. The flowers open in the morning in bright sunlight and close at night. The receptacle is somewhat wedge-shaped, tapering down to the pedicel. The fruit is multi-chambered, ripening from green to yellow.
The species is easily confused with its close relatives, including the more diminutive and less aggressive Carpobrotus chilensis (sea fig), with which it hybridizes readily. C. edulis can, however, be distinguished from most of its relatives by the size and yellow colour of its flowers. The smaller flowers of C. chilensis, 3.8 to 6.4 cm (1+1/2 to 2+1/2 in) in diameter, are deep magenta.
It needs well-drained soil, a sunny position, and room to spread. It is an excellent evergreen, drought- and wind-resistant groundcover; it can be planted on flat, sandy ground, on loose sand dunes, lime-rich and brackish soils, and gravelly gardens, as well as in containers, rockeries, and embankments, and will cascade over terrace walls.
Propagation: Carpobrotus edulis roots easily from cuttings. Take 200-300 mm long tip cuttings during the summer. No rooting hormone or mist unit is required, either plant them where they are intended to grow or directly into a container filled with well-drained potting soil. Seed can be sown in spring, early summer or autumn.
The fruit is edible (as with some other members of the family Aizoaceae), as are its leaves. In South Africa the sour fig’s ripe fruit are gathered and either eaten fresh or made into a very tart jam.
The different parts of C. edulis are used in different forms in traditional medicine, mainly in South Africa. Mostly, the fruits and flowers are eaten raw or cooked for fungal and bacterial infections. The leaves can be ingested orally for digestive problems or the juice can be sucked out to help a sore throat. The juice can also be mixed into a lotion base and used for external issues such as ringworm, bruises, sunburns, and cracked lips.
The leaf juice is astringent and mildly antiseptic. It is mixed with water and swallowed to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps, and is used as a gargle to relieve laryngitis, sore throat and mouth infections. Chewing a leaf tip and swallowing the juice is enough to ease a sore throat.
Species in this genus have a vigorous, prostrate growth habit, producing a dense carpet of foliage and making a very effective ground cover. They can be planted in maritime areas, especially in Mediterranean climates, in order to prevent soil erosion in sandy soils, dunes and on banks.
The plant has very fleshy leaves and is moderately fire-resistant. It can be used in barrier plantings to prevent the spread of forest fires.
The dried leaves contain about 19.4% tannin and the dry stems 14.2%. Yields of 1,700 kilos per hectare of cultivated plants have been achieved
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.