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Plant Highlight: Glottiphyllum linguiforme

November 2011

Glottiphyllum is a genus in the Ice Plant Family (Aizoaceae), with all the species coming from the southern part of South Africa.  The book Vygies, published in 2000, lists 16 species (“vygies” is a South African term for ice plants).  Almost all of these have bright yellow flowers, though white-flowered variants are known for some species.  The name Glottiphyllum means “tongue leaf”, and indeed most of the species are characterized by fleshy, flexible tongue-like leaves.

Glottiphyllum linguiforme comes from the Little Karoo, an arid region to the east of Cape Town which is home to many of the species in the genus.  It has green or grayish-green leaves, and typically these are about 1¼ to 1¾ in wide (32 to 45 mm) by about 2½ inches long (63 mm).  However, in robust specimens such as ours at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, they may be as much as 3 inches wide (75 mm) and up to about 5 inches long (125 mm).  The leaves are distichously arranged (stacked one atop the other on either side of the growing tip).  Like many species of Glottiphyllum, it is clump-forming, and its stems extend outward along the ground as it grows.

The large yellow flowers of Glottiphyllum linguiforme are produced in fall, beginning at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in October and ending in December.  With their long narrow radiating petals, they look somewhat daisy-like, although the ice plant family is not at all closely related to the daisy family.