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Carpobrotus chilensis (Molina) N.E. Br.

Sea fig

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassCaryophyllidaeCacti, many other succulents, carnivorous plants, and leadworts
OrderCaryophyllalesIncludes cacti, carnations, amaranths, ice plants, and many carnivorous plants
FamilyAizoaceaeFig-marigold or ice plant family (previously Mesembryanthemaceae)
GenusCarpobrotusFrom Greek carpos, “fruit,” and brotus, “edible”
Specieschilensis“From Chile”

About plant names...

Sea fig is so named because it occurs along the Pacific coast, and because it produces a fruit like a small fig that, although not especially appetizing, is edible. (Carpobrotus means "edible fruit," and chilensis means "from Chile," rather odd, since it is from South Africa.) It is a native of South Africa. Introduced to North America, it is become naturalized along the west coast, where it is often considered invasive.

Identification: Flowers are very colorful, almost fluorescent. Common along the Pacific coast. It is a smaller version of Carpobrotus edulis. These are compared below:


Carpobrotus chilensis (sea fig)

2/24/2010 · Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, Cali­fornia
≈ 4 × 2½' (1.2 × 0.8 m) ID is uncertain

Carpobrotus chilensis (sea fig)

5/25/2009 · Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Ari­zona
≈ 2½ × 2" (7 × 5.2 cm) ID is uncertain

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Carpobrotus chilensis

Carpobrotus edulis
Common Name

sea fig

ice plant
Plant A few inches high, with stems that creep along the ground, spreading quickly. 3-4" (7.6-10 cm) high, with stems that creep along the ground, spreading quickly.
Flowers Dark pink or purple. Larger, 1½-2½" (3.8-6.3 cm) in diameter. Smaller, 2½-6" (6.3-15 cm) in diameter, yellow or light pink.
Leaves Triangular cross section, 1½" (3.8 cm) long Up to 5" (13 cm) long, dense, triangular in cross-section. Green or yellow-green leaves may be tinged with red.
Fruit Green to yellowish, roughly oval About 1½" (3.8 cm) in diameter, shaped like a spinning top.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 9b-11

USDA Zones: 9-11
Habitats Coastal sage scrub Coastal sage scrub
Type Wild Wild
Occurrence Common, fairly invasive Invasive in California, Australia, and the Mediterranean


Online References:

The Oregon Flora Image Project


The California Invasive Plant Council




The Jepson Manual

Carpobrotus chilensis (sea fig)

2/24/2010 · Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad, Cali­fornia
≈ 15 × 10" (39 × 26 cm) ID is uncertain

Carpobrotus aequilateralus auct. non (Haw.) N.E. Br.

Mesembryanthemum chilense Molina


Carpobrotus chilensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Sep 2020.

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Range: Zones 9b-11:

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