Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a succulent of the Mesembryanthemaceae (Vygie/Ice Plant) family.
Delosperma lavisiae (Mountain Vygie in English, Bergvygie in Afrikaans and Mabone in Sesotho), is a perennial succulent herb which tends to form mats in higher attitude rocky areas. This succulent is endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region and grows at altitudes of up to 2650 m A.S.L.
D. lavisiae can be differentiated from similar spp. such as D. sutherlandii (covered in an earlier issue) by comparing characteristic features such as the number of flowers/plant (several vs. 1-3 for D. sutherlandii) as well as leaf morphology, size and colouration. The photos below were taken on a top of a mountain ridge in close proximity to a section of the Kloof Mountain Trail during the summer of last year. Most plants die when exposed to too much salt – D. lavisiae thrives in these conditions and it’s believed that the salt-content of the leaves lowers their freezing point to reduce the likelihood of frost forming in winter and damaging them.
The leaves of D. lavisiae are spreading and measure approx. 5-17 mm long by 3 mm wide. They are borne on prostate stems of around 1 mm in diameter. Characteristic features of these leaves are their morphology which ranges from rounded to roughly 3 sided with a blunt tip. The leaves range from grey-green with a brown-red tip (when water stressed) to deeper green when water is abundant. The flowers are around 20 mm in diameter with purple-pink petals and flower from Nov – March. Uses:
This adaptable evergreen plant is relatively hardy and thrives with little maintenance. It makes for a good groundcover and is a much-valued garden succulent.
This little guy is the go-to of those who find themselves without water in the heat of summer and may even save one’s life. Ironically it is also said to have diuretic properties and has been used to treat dysentery, liver and kidney diseases and pneumonia. Been stung by a bee or caught too much sun? When the leaves are broken and the salty liquid applied to the skin it can relieve itchiness, swelling and pain from stings as well as discomfort from sunburn.
Food & drink
The leaves of this plant are said to make a spinach-like vegetable-stew and the fermented leaves chewed by the Sesotho. Sodium carbonate found in the ash of the plant was even used to make soda in the early 1900’s on the Canary Islands.
The brilliant pink flowers make for an attractive photography subject.
The SANBI conservation status for D. lavisiae is listed as Least Concern.
Article and photography by Damien Coulson
Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve
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