Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a striking member of the Mesembryanthemaceae (Vygie/Ice Plant) family.
Delosperma sutherlandii (Sutherland Hardy Ice-plant in English), is a succulent herb growing to 120 mm high. The Latin Delos translates to “conspicuous”, whilst sperma translates to “seed”, referring to the large capsule-shaped seeds produced by the plant. In grasslands between KZN and Mpum it grows at altitudes of up to 2100 m A.S.L.
The seeds of D. sutherlandii require only a sufficient quantity of rainfall to open. One can “trick” the dry capsule into opening by sucking on it for a short while or dripping several water droplets on the capsule. The capsule opens before your eyes but will soon close as it quickly dries. Interesting to know that the vibrant looking flowers are among the largest of any Ice-plant. The photo below was taken on a section of the Kloof Mountain Trail during the spring of last year.
The leaves of D. sutherlandii are opposite, flat and somewhat joined near the base. The measurements are 50-80 mm long by 15-20 mm wide. The leaves tend to taper towards the end and are keeled on the ventral surface. The margins are covered in fine short hairs and the water-holding cells are clearly visible, giving the leaves a leathery appearance. One generally observes 1-3 flowers of 35-60 mm diameter in terminal clusters at the ends of stalks of length 50-100 mm. The colour of the flowers is a purple/pink colour fading to yellow white with white stamens. Flowering Late Oct-Dec. Uses:
Heat, drought and salt tolerant, this adaptable evergreen plant thrives with little maintenance. It may be used as a groundcover or added to rock gardens.
The brilliant pink flowers complete with yellow “eye” make for an attractive photography subject.
The SANBI conservation status for D. sutherlandii is listed as Least Concern.