The mesembs are a very large group of succulents, with the majority native to southern Africa. The name “mesembs” derives from the old family name Mesembryanthemaceae, but now these plants are put into the family Aizoaceae, which includes some weedy annuals along with the succulent marvels which are widely grown by plant fanciers around the world. Among the collectable kinds are the Living Rocks (Lithops), Baby Toes (Fenestraria), Split Rocks (Pleiospilos) and Tiger Jaws (Faucaria). Plants in the family are often referred to as “ice plants”, and this designation refers to the highly reflective papillae, or tiny bumps, which cover the leaves of some species and make them look as though they were sprinkled with salt or ice crystals. The book Mesembs of the World, published in 1998, lists about 1800 recognized taxa (species, subspecies and varieties), but the list of published names is far longer than this, since many older names are now considered to be synonyms. Here, five of the less-common species are presented.
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Vol. 91 • No. 4