A few days before the end of the year I re-potted some of my plants and planted some seeds for next year. In my pots I had Delosperma echinatum, a plant I had been working on for my honours degree.
My project had intended to examine a possible gene duplication in the Ruschioideae, a highly-diverse subfamily of the Aizoaceae. Unfortunately, despite the project starting well, I was unable to answer the questions I had wanted to, although with more time I am sure I would have been able to as I worked through one of the blockages one or two days before we had to stop lab work.
During the project I was supplied with cuttings of De. echinatum, more than I needed for DNA extraction and so I took what remained home with me and managed to grow them in pots next to the bathroom window. They’re hard not to like as they are quite unusual plants, having cylindrical rather than flat leaves, and didn’t take long to grow on me. Over the past year they grew extremely well until they had completely filled their pots. Now I’ve put them in bigger pots and hopefully they will get even larger.
At the same time I prepared a smaller pot for planting seeds of Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, also known as the “ice plant.” The Mesembryanthemoideae sub-family is also part of the Azioaceae and was to serve as a control in my project. It only lives for a year which makes it rather annoying as I have to replant it every year. It is quite easy to harvest the seeds though and it makes up for the annoyance in its appearance.
As can be seen above, M. crystallinum is covered in water cells which cause the entire plant to shine in the sunlight. Not only is it visually impressive but I’ve read that the leaves are edible, though when I had read that my plants had already flowered and died. They’re also special in being able to tolerate very salty conditions.
Perhaps in the future I will collect more related plants as the Ruschioideae do have some very peculiar members with many strange leaf shapes. One shape that is particularly intriguing are those that actually look like stones.