The green links below add additional plants to the comparison table. Blue links lead to other Web sites.
enable glossary links

common ice plant, crystalline ice plant


Habit Plants annual to biennial. Herbs, annual or perennial, usually short-lived, succulent, usually conspicuously papillate, glabrous.



trailing, dichotomously branched, to 1 m. Leaves sessile or petiolate;

petiole, ± clasping;

blade ovate to spatulate, flat, 2–20 cm, margins undulate.

prostrate to ascending.


basal and cauline, alternate or opposite, sessile or petiolate;

stipules absent;

blade reddish with age, flat or terete, margins often undulate.


terminal or axillary, cymes;

proximal bracts opposite, leaflike;

distal bracts alternate, reduced; flowering profusely.

terminal or axillary, flowers solitary or in cymes;

bracts absent or 1–2, sessile or pedicellate.


7–10 mm diam.;

hypanthium aging red, round;

calyx lobes 5, unequal;

petals 20–40, connate into tube, white, aging pink;

stamens 30.

showy, 4–10[–20] mm diam., tubular;

calyx lobes (4–) 5, 2 often leaflike;

petals (including petaloid staminodia) 20–40[–150], distinct or connate into short tube, free, white, pink, or yellowish, linear;

nectary glands 5;

stamens 30[–120];

pistil (4–)5-carpellate;

ovary half-inferior, (4–)5-loculed, convex;

placentation axile;

stigmas (4–)5, erect, filiform.


capsules, persistent, valves (4–)5, with expanding interior keels when moistened, forming capsule lids when dried, dehiscence loculicidal.


coarsely papillate.


200, rough with minute tubercles.

100–200, black or dark [light] reddish brown [ochre or whitish], compressed [globose], often with 1 straight edge, 1 mm, smooth to rough with minute tubercles;

arils absent.


= 18.

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum


Phenology Flowering year-round, mostly spring–fall.
Habitat Coastal bluffs, cliffs, ballast dumps, disturbed ground
Elevation 0-100 m (0-300 ft)
from FNA
AZ; CA; PA; South America; Mexico (Baja California); Europe (Mediterranean); Africa; Atlantic Islands; Australia [Introduced in North America]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
s Africa; w Africa [Introduced in North America; also introduced in Mexico, South America, Europe (Mediterranean), Asia, Atlantic Islands, Australia]
[BONAP county map]

Introduced from southern and western Africa, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is in cultivation as an ornamental. Its use to treat scurvy by sailors, its popularity as an ornamental potted plant aboard ships, and its occurrence in ballast dumps (as in Pennsylvania) were some of the means by which this species has become so widespread throughout the world. Gauchos in Argentina used it to treat venereal disease.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species 74 (2 in the flora).

As described here, Mesembryanthemum is the narrowly delineated genus sensu H. M. L. Bolus (1928–1958, part 3, p. 164, fig. 25).

The ability of Mesembryanthemum crystallinum and M. nodiflorum to accumulate and release salt into the surrounding soil is one mechanism by which these species dominate disturbed areas (N. J. Vivrette and C. H. Muller 1977; N. J. Vivrette 1980).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Leaves flat; flowers 7-10 mm diam
M. crystallinum
1. Leaves ±terete; flowers 4-5 mm diam
M. nodiflorum
Source FNA vol. 4, p. 85. FNA vol. 4, p. 84. Author: Nancy J. Vivrette.
Parent taxa Aizoaceae > Mesembryanthemum Aizoaceae
Sibling taxa
M. nodiflorum
Subordinate taxa
M. crystallinum, M. nodiflorum
Synonyms Cryophytum crystallinum, Gasoul crystallinum Cryophytum, Gasoul
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 1: 480. (1753) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 1: 480. (1753): Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 215. (1754)
Web links