Ice Plant Facts
The ice plant is native to South Africa and is now naturalized to many warm climate regions across the globe. The plant is known around the world by a variety of descriptive names, including "highway ice plant," "pigface," and "sour fig plant," because of its edible fruit. The ice plant gets its name from the small, clear engorged hairs on the surface of the leaves that look like frozen droplets of water.
The ice plant is a low-growing, mat-forming succulent plant which can grow up to into mats up to 165 feet in diameter. The leaves are short and finger like, and covered in hair like projections that look like frozen droplets of water. The plant produces small blossoms in shades of yellow or pink. The flowers have thin, wispy petals surrounding a protruding center.
The ice plant grows naturally in Australia, California, Arizona, and along the Mediterranean. The plant was brought to the United States from Africa, for the purpose of stabilizing the earth around newly-lain railroad tracks. Thousands of acres of ice plant were planted in California until the early 1970s. Along the Mediterranean, some parts of the coastline are completely covered with ice plant.
As with all other succulents, the ice plant requires very little water. Supplemental waterings are not necessary; ice plants survive on rain water, even if rains are few and far between. Ice plant prefers open, sunny locales with plenty of ventilation. The plant cannot tolerate frost, and dies back after exposure to freezing weather.
Ice plants grow in the wild in Australia, California, Arizona, and in towns along the Mediterranean coast. The plant spreads quickly, and threatens other native vegetation. Because the ice plant grows quickly and thickly, native vegetation cannot compete with the ice plant. Ice plant is considered an invasive weed in these areas, and many areas have organized efforts to remove the plants from public owned lands.
The ice plant is propagated with cuttings or seeds. The fact that it propagates so easily from seed makes its invasiveness almost impossible to control. The plant's edible fruit is eaten by wildlife, whose feces then scatter the seeds to other areas where the seeds take root and develop into other plants.