by Stephen Mifsud
   31 Jan 2023      ()
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Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   (Heart-leaved Ice Plant)

Mesembryanthemum cordifolium  (AIZOOACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands after year 2000.

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Profile Date Oct-2007 (taxon update: Jul-2020)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (2022). Mesembryanthemum cordifolium - datasheet created on Oct-2007. Retrieved from on 31-Jan-2023

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Mesembryanthemum cordifoliumL. fil.
Published in Suppl. Pl.: 260. (1781)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

Aptenia cordifolia (L. fil.) Schwantes
Synonym that was used for long in Malta: Aptenia cordifolia (L. fil.) Schwantes
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life] []

Plant Family :

Aizooaceae Rudolphi (The Fig-Marigold Family)
17 species from the Aizooaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Heart-leaved Ice Plant, Baby Sun Rose, Lilac Aptenia

Maltese name(s) :

Widnet il-ħanżir, Widnet il-Ġurdien

Status for Malta :

Invasive Alien. Species that was introduced in Malta any time after year 1492 (Columbus' discovery of the New World), and spreads rapidly to form large invasive populations to the detriment of native flora or ecosystems.

Frequency :

Very Common     Common    Frequent     Scarce     Rare    Very rare    Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: CHAMEOPHYTE ( dwarf or small woody shrubs )
Germination [info]: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection :

Not legally protected till the last update of this website (2/Mar/2022)

Red List (1989) :

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :

March – November

Colour of Flowers:

Violet or Red


Not particularly toxic

Name Derivation :

Mesembryanthemum: Conjugation of two Greek words Mesembria - meaning midday or noon and -anthemon meaniny flower; in allusion to the fact that plants bloom at noon. In the past, many succulent plants have been classified in this genus for this artificail habit, however, many Mesembryanthemum species have been later placed to more appropriate genera sharing common morphological or/and genetic traits. (Greek origin )
cordifolium: Bearing leaves with the shape of a heart. (Latin origin )

Planting in rural areas :

Cannot be planted in the wild (rural areas) since the species may be invasive (see ERA guidelines)

Remarks :

Very similar to Aptenia (= Mesembryanthemum) lancifolia but flowers are slightly smaller and have a more violet hue rather than reddish-purple. As the epithet implies, the base of the leaves are truncate to subcordate, more noticeable in larger leaves. Hybrids between A. cordifolia × A. haeckeliana are known in cultivation and often sold as Red Apple. They have lilac-rose flowers and easy to confuse with both A. lancifolia and A. cordifolia. The difference to differ the two species from the leaves (lance-shaped in A. lancifolia; heart-shaped in A. cordifolia) is not very contrasting and difficult to distinguish between the two. However, A. lancifolia has larger and more reddish flowers from A. cordifolia which are violet-purple instead.

Description, Habitat and Distribution
Habitat in Europe: Open arid ground at or near the the coast
Preferred habitat in Malta: Rubble walls, sometimes carpeting abandoned ground where it was previously cultivated and abandoned
Botanical Description: Procumbent perennial; stems 20-60 cm, much-branched. Leaves opposite, ovate-cordate, finely papillose, flat, not glaucous. Flowers solitary, axillary and terminal, pedunculate; petals reddish-purple.
Chromosome number: 2n=18
Distributional range: Naturalized in coastal areas of S. & W. Europe
Native region outside Europe: South Africa

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):
Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):
Introduced in  the Azores, the Balaeric Islands, Britain (excl. Northern Ireland and Channel islands), Crete, France (incl. Monaco and Channel Islands but excluding Corse), Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), Portugal, Sicily and/or Malta
Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(from Euro+Med Checklist, 2019)
  Country codes  
[nAE(G) Az nAz(C F G J L M P S T) aBe(B) Bl(I M N) nBr By nCa Ca(C F G H L T) nCo Cr Ct Da Es nGa(C F) Gr Hs(S) It La nLi Lt Lu nMa nMd Md(M P) Mo Rf(C E K NW S) Si(M S) Uk(K U)]

Links & Further literature (0 papers)

Google Web

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Research Gate




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



World Flora Online

Plants of the World Online

Vienna Virt. Herb.

RBGE Herbarium

KEW Herbarium




Kindly Email if there are papers and publications about local studies or information about this species to be included in the list above.

Species Images (10 images)
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-0.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-1.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-2.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-3.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-4.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-5.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-6.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-7.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-8.
   Mesembryanthemum cordifolium   -   Image Code: MSMCF-9.

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