Far Out Flora

Highway Hottentot to Hell


You can tell that fall is just around the corner when the Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis) starts to turn a deep scarlet red…and so continues my love/ hate relationship with this devilish succulent.

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis

Up and down the California coast you will find the Hottentot Fig, aka Ice Plant, growing along the highways and beaches.  There’s something sexy about this succulent.  It holds up strong against the salty ocean sprays and our Mediterranean climate.  They display showy flowers in the spring, and turn a deep red in the fall.  But, it has adapted so well that it’s become one of most invasive plants along the coast of California.

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis

Fort Funston at Sunset, with Outer Sunset in the background

Here’s an overview of the Iceplant at Fort Fuston, Max out Border Collie‘s favorite dog park.  Oh yeah…this succulent holds up against foot and doggie traffic too.

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis

Max running along the dunes with the Iceplant

So…how did the California coastline get so much Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis)?

This South African native was brought to California back in the early 1900s to use as erosion control along the train lines.  It did such a great job that Caltrans planted tons of it back in the ’70s along the highways.  Yeah, it was a success…so much that its vigor choked out anything that crossed its path.  Not only can a single plant grow more than 100 feet in diameter, it produces a bunch of viable seed that spreads like wildfire via wind and animal consumption (e.g. scat).  Cal-IPC has more info on the subject.

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis

Hottentot Fig - Carpobrotus edulis

These days, effort is being made to restore our coastal beaches, dunes, and bluffs.  There’s a great dune restoration site at the North end of Fort Funston.  They’ve been re-establishing a lot of California natives including my fave the Dudleya.

— Far Out Flora


  1. I’ve never been a big fan of this plant, even not knowing of it’s invasive tendencies. Your pictures however could change all that….GORGEOUS!

  2. I remember having ice plant as a kid in the mojave desert, but I don’t think it was an invasive kind. Beautiful photos of a troubling plant… I can see why you have a love/hate relationship!

  3. OMG! How gorgeous! One of many reasons why I love California so damn much!!! WOWZERS! Just gorgeous!!! Thanks for showing!!!

  4. Love/hated indeed! It creates a truly beautiful landscape, but the loss of indigenous species is so sad. Glad there are moves afoot to reclaim at least some coastline for the natives. A rather too well adapted plant? Stunning though.

  5. Pingback: Whale On The Beach « Far Out Flora's Blog

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