Ice plant also known as Ice fig is a native plant of South Africa. It grows in dry weather conditions due to which it is one of the best options for rock garden landscaping. It also thrives in coastal environments where the surroundings are salty. This plant loves summer and bears bright purple to magenta colored flowers resembling daisy. The leaves are green and succulent. That’s the reason why you can see them on the banks of sea shores, sunny walkway, and rock gardens where they add more color to the surrounding ambience. The plant requires dry and well drained soil for thriving.
Ice plants come in three different varieties:
It is an evergreen plant and although native to South Africa, it can grow easily in different planting zones from 5 to 9. This plant requires well drained soil for sustenance and if it is to be planted in clay soil, the cultivators should improvise the percolation by making soil amendments. Although it is a drought resistant plant, it needs occasional watering during extreme summer with superb drainage facility.
Crystalline Ice plant and Common Ice plant are the two other names of Ice plant. At the start of 19th century, Ice plant was popularly used to prepare soda by drying it and burning it to produce 40 percent of sodium carbonate from its ashes. Since ice plants produced sodium carbonate in much higher quantity than other plants when burnt, it was preferred for making soda, especially in the neighboring islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. The climate in these areas is very hot and dry and highly conducive for the growth of Ice plant. The process of preparing soda from ice plant was stopped in the late 19th century when other techniques of soda making came into existence.
Fresh Ice plant sap is used as a remedy to treat minor skin problems and is added to baths for refreshing skin. Its extract can be used to prepare ointments and creams for treating skin problems such as neurodermatitis and psoriasis. It is also used in cosmetics for protecting skin from the harmful UV rays and helps to heal and repair the damage done by sunburn.
Ice plants are known to invade the territory of other plants like grasslands and bluffs close to the oceans and destroy the local species. It holds the movement of sand soil which is very necessary for the growth of native plants growing in sandy dunes.