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(Figmarigold or Carpetweed or Mesembryanthemum family)


According to Mabberley (1987), the 2400 species in the 114 genera that make up this family are particularly strongly represented in South Africa. Others occur in tropical Africa, Australia, South and Central America, and in California, USA. Brummitt (1992), however, recognises 128 genera.

Many species are decorative and are widely cultivated. Some, notably Mesembryanthemum crystallinum L., the ice plant, have become naturalised in many parts of Europe.

There is evidence for the existence of weak irritants in certain species.

Eberlanzia spinosa Schwantes
[syn. Mesembryanthemum spinosum L.]

This species is occasionally found in collections of succulent plants. It bears curious rectangularly branched thorns at the branch tips.

Gallenia africana L.

The Hottentot chew the plant to relieve toothache and it is said to blister the mucous membrane of the mouth if used too much (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Mesembryanthemum L.

Hjorth (1968) reported that one patient from 19 tested gave a positive patch test response to an unnamed species of Mesembryanthemum.

Mollugo L.

The plant juices of M. hirta Thunb. and M. oppositifolia L. have been used in India as a treatment for itching and other skin diseases (Nadkarni 1976, Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977).

The genus Mollugo may occasionally be found classified in the family Molluginaceae.

Sesuvium portulacastrum L.
[syns Halimus portulacastrum Kuntze, Portulaca portulacastrum L., Sesuvium acutifolium Miq., Sesuvium revolutifolium Ortega, Trianthema americana Gillies ex Arn.]
Shoreline Sea Purslane, Samphire

According to Díaz (1976), the plant is caustic.

The common name sea purslane may also refer to the unrelated Halimione portulacoides Aellen (syn. Atriplex portulacoides L., fam. Amaranthaceae) or Honckenya peploides Ehrh. (syn. Arenaria peploides L., fam. Caryophyllaceae), and the common name samphire may also refer to Crithmum maritimum L. (fam. Umbelliferae).


  • Brummitt RK (1992) Vascular Plant Families and Genera. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens [WorldCat]
  • Díaz JL (1976) Usos de las Plantas Medicinales de México. México: Instituto Mexicano para el Estudio de las Plantas Medicinales [WorldCat]
  • Hjorth N (1968) Personal communication to Mitchell JC. In: Mitchell J, Rook A (1979). Vancouver: Greengrass, p. 51 [WorldCat]
  • Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF (1977) Medical Botany. Plants affecting man's health. New York: John Wiley [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Nadkarni AK (1976) Dr. K. M. Nadkarni's Indian Materia Medica. With ayurvedic, unani-tibbi, siddha, allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic & home remedies, appendices & indexes, Revised enlarged and reprinted 3rd edn, Vols 1 & 2. Bombay: Popular Prakashan [WorldCat] [url]
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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