The veld is dominated by yellow and purple flowers at the moment. Nonetheless, today I want to bring three pink spring flowers to your attention. Although the first is still sans an ID, its warm pink flowers make a pretty show next to the country roads.

Another small pink flower belongs to the Oxalis family – I think this it is an Oxalis purpurea – and stands out in semi-shaded areas. This is one of many growing along a sandy path.

Then there are these vygies, as they are commonly called here, more formally known as Carpobrotus edulis. These flowers are widespread and we have recently seen them carpeting the veld from the Eastern Cape through to the Western Cape. These particular ones are growing in my garden.



Mention the word ‘fig’ and this image springs to mind:

Our neighbours have such a fig tree in their garden that sometimes bends with the weight of delicious edible fruit. A succession of families living there over the years have ignored their plump ripeness, leaving them for the Speckled Mousebirds, Cape White-eyes, Redwinged Starlings and Blackeyed Bulbuls to devour!

The enormous Natal fig tree in our garden produces an abundance of tiny fruits that are inedible for humans, yet are a magnet for an enormous variety of birds. This African Green Pigeon among them:

So, when is a fig not a fig? When it belongs to the ice plant or Mesembryanthemacae family. There is such a variety of these plants indigenous to South Africa that they probably deserve a fat guide book all to themselves. Whatever their actual scientific designation, they are commonly known here as mesembs or vygies (little figs). Let me show you why:

Once these beautifully silky flowers have fruited, the fruiting capsules bear a strong resemblance to a little fig (vygie):


The ice plant family is better known in South Africa as vygies (little figs), or even as mesembs (from Mesembryanthemacae). There is a bewildering array of these flowers, some of which have been hybridised, so that trying to accurately identify them from the different guides I have is problematic – each one covers only a limited range. Looking at the photographs accompanying the names and brief descriptions of the plants can be confusing too. The Carpobrotus acinaciformis – which I think this one might be – grows along dunes and coastal sands in the southwestern and southern Cape. This means I should rule it out for these flowers blooming in the veld close to Cradock.

Yet, these magenta flowers have a pale centre. Mmm, the actual petals do not have a pale base – so perhaps it is not this one. After all this site is some distance from the ocean. Now the Carpobrotus deliciosus, which has similarly shaped leaves, not only grows on sand dunes but also in rocky grassland in both the southern and Eastern Cape. This would make it a more likely candidate except … those centres do not look pale. On the other hand, Carpobrotus dimidiatus has a flower that matches the one in the picture above and it grows along the coast of the Eastern Cape … only we are not at the coast and the leaves of this species appear to be tinged with purple. Perhaps this might help you to appreciate the dilemma of a non-botanist who is fascinated by the myriad wild flowers we are blessed with in South Africa.

There are similar flowers growing in my garden:

At least I have discovered the etymology of Carpobrotus is a combination of the Greek carpos (fruit) and brotos (edible). Certainly the fruits of these flowers turn brown when dry, and have juicy centres scattered with seeds – reminiscent of a fig and hence the Afrikaans name, vygies. These fruits can be used to make jam or to add to curry dishes, which brings to mind that another common name for these plants is sour fig.

Note: Neither my camera nor my cell phone are able to accurately reflect the gorgeous colour of these flowers.

Guides referred to:

SMITH G.F AND VAN WYK B: Guide to Garden Succulents. Briza Publications 2008.

MANNING J: Field Guide to Wild Flowers of South Africa. Struik Nature 2009.

SMITH G.F, CROUCH N.R AND FIGUEIREDO E: Field Guide to Succulents in Southern Africa. Struik Nature 2017.