Common iceplant

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum

''Mesembryanthemum crystallinum'' is a prostrate succulent plant native to Africa, Sinai and southern Europe, and naturalized in North America, South America and Australia. The plant is covered with large, glistening bladder cells or water vesicles, reflected in its common names of common ice plant, crystalline ice plant or ice plant.
Crystalline ice plant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum  Australia,Common iceplant,Geotagged,Mesembryanthemum crystallinum

Appearance

''Mesembryanthemum crystallinum'' is covered with enlarged epidermal cells, called "bladder cells". The main function of these bladder cells is to reserve water.

It flowers from spring to early summer. Flowers open in the morning and close at night, and are insect pollinated.

It can be annual, biennial or perennial, but its life cycle is usually completed within several months, depending on environmental conditions.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum - Flowers  Common ice plant,Geotagged,Mesembryanthemum crystallinum,Spain,Spring

Behavior

The plant usually uses C3 carbon fixation, but when it becomes water- or salt-stressed, it is able to switch to Crassulacean acid metabolism. Like many salt-tolerant plants, ''M. crystallinum'' accumulates salt throughout its life, in a gradient from the roots to the shoots, with the highest concentration stored in epidermal bladder cells. The salt is released by leaching once the plant dies. This results in a detrimental osmotic environment preventing the growth of other, non-salt-tolerant species while allowing ''M. crystallinum'' seeds to germinate.

In ''M. crystallinum'', the number of seeds produced depends on whether CAM has been activated and the size the plant has grown to in its juvenile growth phase. During seed production, older portions of the plant progressively die off and dry out. The developing seed capsules continue to sequester salt and produce viable seeds. Seeds at the top of the capsule generally germinate immediately on imbibation while seeds at the base may remain dormant for longer than four weeks.
Crystalline ice plant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum Stem of Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is covered with enlarged epidermal cells, called "bladder cells". The main function of these bladder cells is to reserve water. Australia,Common iceplant,Geotagged,Mesembryanthemum crystallinum,Spring

Habitat

''Mesembryanthemum crystallinum'' is found on a wide range of soil types, from well-drained sandy soils , to loamy and clay soils. It can tolerate nutritionally poor or saline soils. As with many introduced species it also grows in disturbed sites such as roadsides, rubbish dumps and homestead yards.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum Seen at the path surrounding one of the craters in Volcan del Cuervo in Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. Common ice plant,Geotagged,Mesembryanthemum crystallinum,Spain,Spring

Evolution

The plant was once promoted in the United States and Europe as a vegetable, but failed to gain popularity.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum  Common ice plant,Geotagged,Mesembryanthemum crystallinum,Spain,Spring

Uses

Its leaves are edible, as with some other members of the family Aizoaceae. In southern Africa, the leaves and stems are gathered from the wild and pickled. Ice plants are also used in South Africa as a way of deterring fires, or "firescaping" gardens. Seeds can also be eaten. The crushed leaves can be used as a soap substitute and have some medicinal uses. It is rarely, if ever, grazed upon by domestic stock.

It is also cultivated for ornamentation.

Due to its salt accumulation, ''M. crystallinum'' may be useful for bio-remediation.

References:

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Taxonomy
KingdomPlantae
DivisionAngiosperms
ClassEudicots
OrderCaryophyllales
FamilyAizoaceae
GenusMesembryanthemum
SpeciesM. crystallinum