Saturday, June 23, 2007

The iceplant Mesembreyanthemum crystallinum
The thought struck me that I should at least give the scientific name of the iceplant in my description of this plant in the previous post. To my surprise the first information I looked up on the web gave the distribution of the plant as Mexico and the USA. That was when I decided to go to the web site of the University of California. The plant is from South Africa but it was accidentally introduced to America by the first seafarers.
Crystalline iceplant occurs along the immediate coast from the SanFrancisco Bay region south into Baja California, Mexico. It can also be found on all the California Channel Islands..... It is found primarily in saline soils on coastal strand, coastal sage scrub, coastal bluffs and cliffs, and other disturbed ground. It tolerates saline soils, but not frost.
Mesembreyanthemum crystallinum grows not only on the coast but also in the dry sandy loam of Namaqualand which contains a lot of salts. There is frost inland so that it could not be very sensitive to frost in habitat possibly because it is protected by shrubs and boulders.

Something special about the plant - In the old days it was (probably still is) used to clean pots. A little sand added to the leaf mush will scour and clean a pot quickly. Not so long ago I met a woman who grew up in a household where the pots were scoured and cleaned in this way. I can imagine the women who live far from towns in the dry Namaqualand with very little cash money, could still be using this plant for soap and water. The juice and pulp of the iceplant is very good treatment for the skin.
In addition to the healing and feeding of the skin it also forms a thin membrane which protects the skin against drying out and even sunburn.
I found a photo of the iceplant that we took a previous winter. This photo was taken in Namaqualand.

  I was more interested in taking a photo of the dashing grasshopper "knight with his armor" than the iceplant.

Is he smart or what ?!


Vita said...

Pretty spectacular. My aunt has an aloe jungle on her front porch, and anytime anyone gets an owie of any kind, she rushes to provide a leaf or stalk, whatever they're called, to the wounded area.

Granny J said...

Two items of business: first, a question -- did the ice plant cross the Pacific with pre- or post-Columbian sailors?

And, second-- you've been tagged with the glass meme. More info here. Have fun!