Mesembryanthemum (Gr. , mid day, and , a flower), a genus of succulent plants called fig marigolds, and by the French ticoides, as some species produce an edible fruit resembling a tig. The genus is large, consisting of about 300 species, and the principal one in a small family, the Jicoidem or me-tembryanthemacem. Some of the species are annual, others perennial, with half shrubby, branching stems, and in others the stem is very short, the leaves being collected in a compact rosette like a houseleek. They are natives of warm, dry countries, the greater number being from southern Africa; the leaves in all are exceedingly succulent and well adapted to resist the long droughts of their native regions. Perhaps half of the whole number are in cultivation; the flowers are generally showy, and consist of four or five sepals united by the base and adhering to the ovary, and numerous, very narrow petals, which are often in several series and give the flowers much the appearance of a head of some composite plant; they are white or of different shades of yellow and rose color.
The capsule has at the top a series of slits arranged in a star-like manner; these slits remain closed while the capsule is dry, but when the rains have rendered the soil suitable for the germination of the seeds, the slits open by the action of the moisture and allow them to escape. The best known annual species, M. crystallinum, is described under Ice Plant. The perennials are cultivated as greenhouse plants, and are occasionally used for bedding out in summer. The flowers open only on bright days, and usually at noon, but the plants are cultivated quite as much for their striking and odd foliage as for their flowers.
The diversity of forms presented by the different species of this genus is remarkable. M. dolabriforme is so named from the resemblance of the leaves to the ancient axe or hatchet; in M. dcltoideum a cross section of the leaf presents the outline of the Greek ; both of these are tall and branching. M. tigri-num is one of the low compact species in which the leaves are fringed with strong, spiny teeth, suggestive of a tiger's jaw. The plants are of the easiest cultivation and require but little water. For so large a genus it contains but few useful species. M. edule, the Hottentot's fig, has an edible fruit resembling a small fig, while the leaves of some species and the seeds of others serve as food.
Mesembryanthemum Leaves. - 1. M. deltoideum. 2. M. felinum.